I was never a part of High School. Sure, I went to High School like everyone else but I was never really a part of it. I never had any friends in High School and that’s how I wanted it. I went to school everyday but not always to my classes. I was usually in a practice module in the music room, practicing my bass. Every two months or so I was in the Principal’s office fighting for them to let me stay in school. (I was supposed to go to a High School in "the ghetto", closer to home, but instead I chose to travel two hours on the bus every day to go to another school because of the music program.) I remember the only time I came really close to being kicked out was supposedly because my math teacher had been complaining that I was missing too many classes. I still remember my argument
"Tell me, if I have a 98% in Math, the highest mark in the school, why do I need to go to class everyday?" To this day it seems like a good argument to me but it didn’t matter. If it hadn’t been for my music teacher walking by the office and then fighting with the Principal on my behalf, I would have been kicked out of that school for sure. My marks were good but my attendance was
When I was ten years old and in fifth grade, the education system, with my mother’s consent, decided to pull me out of class every day for about six weeks to do tests on me. It was the beginning of many years of being singled out. I was deemed to be exceptionally "gifted" and was offered a guaranteed four year full scholarship to the university of my choice, provided I transferred into the GATES program (Gifted and Talented Education) at another school.
But I never got any of that because of my father. They wanted to place me into grade nine but he didn’t understand that it would be a special school and a special program. He just thought of me walking through the halls of a regular Junior High as a ten year old and told my mother that all the kids would pick on me. He wanted me to have a normal schooling. (Little did he understand that by not allowing me to enter the GATES program, the opposite would in fact become my reality.) From that point on, even though I went to regular school like everyone else, I was never graded like everyone else and never learned the same things as everyone else. I remember my math class when I was in grade eight: I would sit in a desk in the hallway just outside of the classroom doing grade 12 math… by myself. It was supposed to be a good thing, a privilege of some sort.
It didn’t take much more for me to finally grow tired of this "special attention". By the time I was in High School, I decided not only to not try anymore but to actually try to get lower grades. I did just the very minimum to get by and not be "noticed" anymore. Of course I knew the answers, but I would make little intentional "mistakes" in all my classes (except math – I liked math) so that my marks wouldn’t be so high anymore. Everyone that knew me in High School knew me as an Average Joe. Blissful. Every trimester I would fight with the school to be removed from the honor roll before anyone would see it and with the exception of my mother and a handful of AP (Advanced Placement) students that would occasionally come to me for math help, no one ever knew. In grade eleven, I successfully challenged the diploma exams for chemistry, biology, physics and calculus so that I wouldn’t have to take the courses in my senior year.
In the spring of my senior year as High School was quickly coming to a end, there was a school-wide writing competition which seemed really stupid to me, but for reasons which are still a mystery to me, I decided to enter. (At the last minute, of course.)
The idea was that early in the morning you’d pick up the entry form and instructions from the office – you’d have until the end of the school day to compose your entry, all while still attending regular classes. The only requirement was that the words "laughing" and "laterally" had to appear somewhere in the entry. The submissions were supposed to be anonymous (you were assigned a number for your entry) and the author would only be revealed after the submissions were judged. There were awards for prose and awards for poetry. I started writing just after lunch and at the end of the day, five minutes before the deadline, I submitted a ten page essay entitled "Never Cry Wolf".
About two weeks later, I was called into the Principal’s office. Apparently what I wrote was a little disturbing to them and they wanted me to go through some psychiatric evaluations, or so they said. Hm? Of course I refused and insisted that they just forget about it – I wasn’t really interested in the competition anyways, it was just an impulse decision to enter and it wasn’t anything I took seriously. About two weeks after that however, I was awarded first place and that was the end of it. I didn’t let anyone know about it and hid my award and essay in a box and stored it deep in my closet. I never mentioned it to anyone after that.
A couple months ago, I found out there is actually a little more to this story… In a conversation about me with Michelle and my mother, my mother confessed that she knew about my award all along and actually knew about a week in advance that I would be receiving it. The school had called my mother in for a meeting with the Principal and the English Department but didn’t tell her why until she got there. They thought I had plagiarized the essay and my mother tells me they said "there is no way that Daniel wrote this essay. We just want to know where he got it from." She remembers telling them only two things – first, that she knows that I would never cheat and second that "he’s smarter than you think". My mother kept this meeting with the school a secret from me (and the fact that she knew about the award) for more than ten years.
The only thing I regret now is that I can’t write like that anymore. I’m way out of practice ;-) Plus, it seems like this behavior has become a habit now, for better or worse. There are a number of recordings that I have done where I’ve asked not to have my name listed, or listed as a fake name instead. I seldom take credit for my greatest achievements (only for the little ones) and keep most of them a secret. Like I said, it’s become a habit for better or worse.
Instead of closing with an excerpt from the writing competition essay "Never Cry Wolf", (it’s not that good), I have decided to close with an excerpt from an essay I wrote in grade nine. I would have been fourteen at the time and it’s the last time I remember actually trying. By the time I was in college I didn’t really write much anymore, mostly because I was lazy, so I submitted this essay again (unedited, unmodified) for a communications course I was in at the time. I ended up getting a higher mark on it then than I did in Junior High – go figure! (It also granted me exemption from the course.) Here’s an excerpt:
Through the process of advancement and development, it is unfortunate that we have restructured our education system to one that is largely governed by institutions. On the whole, we hold these institutions in such a high regard and see them as the means to the highest level of education possible. As a result, education today has become a status symbol measured in certificates and diplomas; it is no longer a quest for knowledge, instead, it is a quest for recognition. [… … …] Far too often, other methods of learning are disregarded and even dismissed. Whereas before, when education was tailored to the needs of the student and administered on a more personal level, we have now adopted a system of conformity where the student must conform to the instructor. By relying solely on institutions and eliminating other methods of education, we have created a society where we are told not only what to think, but how to go about thinking it. Naturally, the implementation of this impersonal approach to education has limited the rate at which our information grows and evolves.