Don't Do What They Tell You
Oscar Brown wanders the streets where I live aimlessly. He’s not really going anywhere, he doesn’t have an agenda, he just wanders. He wears a t-shirt and gym shorts and flip flops, he’s always sweaty and he’s always out of breath and he lumbers. He’s not fast, he’s not slow, he just lumbers. There are some things you need to know about Oscar. In high school he was in advanced calculus. Where I teach, that’s a big deal (he is also black, and being poor, black and in advanced calc is a big deal at my high school). He also has mad crazy video game skills. One day in game club, afterschool, he did an unheard of finishing move in super-smash brothers. A move so amazing, so skilled, and timed so perfectly that he was an instant celebrity, if only for that evening. Oscar also cracked open a pen once and spread the blue ink on half of his face celtic-warrior style and used the rest of the ink to write out “chaos” on a wall (yes, indeed the child did spell it right). He has also taken a giant bite out of a white-board eraser and stripped down to his drawls in the cafeteria because he felt it was to hot. There is one more thing I should mention about Oscar, he is severely autistic and has been diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome.
The textbook definition of autism is, “a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.” Yup, that’s Oscar, without questions. What the textbook isn’t saying is that autistic kids aren’t learning disabled necessarily, in Oscar’s case the opposite was true. The kid was a math genius, but no one gives a sh*t if you’re a math genius if your poor, black and autistic. Your defining characteristic is the time you took off all your clothes in the cafeteria or when you painted “chaos” on the wall (spelled correctly mind you) in blue ink. Your teachers want you out of your hair and dealt with in a manner where you are silent and compliant. Oscar’s English teacher demanded he had a one-on-one babysitter so he could stay out of her hair and not cause her any further emotional stress of already being a 400 lb white lady in a mostly black school with an 80% failure rate. His special education teacher just wanted to mollify him and get him the almighty, all-solving diploma and see his ass kindly out the door. Who gives a sh*t if genius is being stifled (not really stifled as much as outright f*cking ignored), the kid eats freakin’ erasers and we need to get him the f*ck out of here before he brings down our AYP (adequate yearly progress) and we have a bunch of government suits in here telling us we aren’t good teachers and restructuring our school and taking away our jobs. Who f*cking gives a sh*t, because being a teacher is just our job and we gotta eat and watch Grey’s Anatomy and American Idol and ignore our own f*cking kids so we can deal with our own depression and lost youth. Who f*cking cares that our job is to be directly responsible for shaping the minds and lives of our youth, and we in fact work for the government so if we aren’t part of the solution we sure as sh*t are part of the f*cking problem. Who f*cking cares.
Apparently nobody because Oscar Brown wanders the streets of the town I live in even though he’s a math genius. No one ever gave him any expectations. No one ever told him he could be a compter programmer or a conceptual physicist. They just told him, well they didn’t tell him but they sure as sh*t showed him, that he was just a freak and “special” and needed to fade away quietly into nothing so the rest of us could get on with our lives. The system is f*cking broken, and the lazy enable tragedy every goddam day.
I’m Sam Wilson and I teach at a public high school.