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Letter writer Lisa Guthro is wrong to think that our schools were/are racist in their policies.

Our schools have always treated the children who are forced to go to them equally badly regardless of skin color.

My first grade one teacher in Minto, New Brunswick, was the wife of the principal. She asked us to draw stick figures of men and women. While the rest of the class drew conventional stick figures with triangles for dresses on the women I drew stick figure nudes. When she saw them she said, “Ah…an artist.” She encouraged me.

Grade Two, however, was a different story. Seeing my stick figure nudes my teacher said, “You have a dirty mind.” She beat me.

At seven I learned an important lesson. I knew that had I done something wrong my first grade teacher who was the wife of the principal would have told me. I learned that a teacher could be wrong. I also learned that when a teacher was wrong we took the beating and did not change. I nearly died that year. My father’s work took us to a different town a few miles away, Chipman.

At eight I brought my sister to school for her first time. She played with the niece of the principal. When we saw the principal as we approached the school my sister said hello to her.

At noon when I picked her up to bring her home her face was red with tears. She had been taken from the classroom to the office where she was given the strap for having addressed the principal.

At eight there is not much we can do except remember. I have remembered.

Over the years first in New Brunswick and later in Ontario I watched as many people I knew were damaged by the schools we went to.

The French thinker Montesquieu said, “We get three educations. The first is from our parents, the second from our schools, the third from life. The last makes liars of the first two.”

Ivan Illich said, “School is an institution built on the axiom that learning is the result of teaching. And institutional wisdom continues to accept this axiom, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

My friend Jane Jacobs stated, “I had great teachers in the first and second grades who taught me everything I know. After that the teachers were nice but they were dopes.”

In my last year in high school, grade 13 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the principal called me into his office where I was loudly told I had the wrong attitude and would starve in two weeks if I left school that day.

Had I not left I would have starved.

Albert Einstein said, “It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very great mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.”

Ellis Marsalis said to his sons Branford, Delfeayo and Wynton, “Most teachers say you should go to school to get your degree to have something to fall back on. Aside from being a huge lie, that also creates a very high level of mediocrity, because nobody who really believes that is going to take the leap of faith required to be a serious artist. Stay out of school.”

Jane Jacobs further stated, “I would like it to be understood, and increasingly understood as time passes, that all our human achievements have been done by ordinary people, not by exceptionally educated people, or by elites or by supernatural forces, for heaven’s sake. Yet without understanding this, people are all too willing to fall for the idea that they can’t do this, they themselves, or anybody they know, because they’re too ordinary.

“Ordinary people are capable of things without even knowing they’re doing wonderful things. You know, the next thing is not planned. It just seems to happen. It is very seldom planned.”

I’m with them.
–Reg Hartt 2018–04–19.

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