I have always been one of the smart kids. My teachers always told me how brilliant I was. My professors are in awe of my work. I have the intelligence to be a straight-A student... if only I had the discipline to do classwork. I have always been one of the smart kids.
Recently, I've been having somewhat of a crisis, if you will. I realized I never really stepped out of my comfort zone academically. I have never been the other. I have gone from daycare through college in settings I am comfortable in and that I know I will flourish in. I always know people in my classes, I am always connected to the culture, I am always "home."
This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
However, the crisis I mentioned has come in the form of intense self-doubt. Doubting the education I have received thus far and whether I have been prepared to compete on a grand scale.
I am a proud public-school kid. I am not ashamed of where I come from. I never had an immense desire to attend prestigious institutions. I am not entirely fond of the idea of being in "all-white spaces" just because those spaces are considered the epitome of success. I have always gravitated towards what I know and now I am concerned I have stunted any additional growth and knowledge that I could've obtained had I stepped out of my comfort zone.
Let me make myself clear: I do not think public schools are inherently bad or second class just because they are public, but let's be real — our public school system is struggling and has been struggling for some time. From third grade through high school, our teachers and faculty are tasked with making sure their students pass these arbitrary standardized test and nothing more. Student creativity isn't always a priority and even though we have brilliant administrators, their creativity as a teacher is limited as well. Private school kids aren't smarter than public school kids — but they do receive a better education with more resources that sets them up to be more successful down the road.
In addition or should I say as a result of this — students are struggling. I am inclined to ask — has this motley mix of public school flaws forced administrators and teachers to have extremely low expectations for their students? When teachers told me I was smart , or when I got A's was it because I exceeded their extremely low expectations of us? Was it because I did better than my peers who were struggling greatly? Would they still think I was smart if I was in a Bronx Science classroom performing as I was?
I honestly don't know. I've never been "dumb" or struggling. As a college junior in a public senior college, as a writer, I do not feel like I am being challenged adequately. I wonder, have our professors become stagnant and do not aim to challenge us because they believe we can't handle it because they have inherited the students who have been failed by the public school system?
Last year, I had a professor who was very aggressive with her course load. When the students complained, she remarked something along the lines of, "I understand you all may have children and full-time jobs and some students like those at Fordham University might not have to deal with those realities while going to school full time — But when you graduate, those are the students you will have to compete with and I want to prepare you all to be prepared." I appreciated that and I do I hope I will be prepared to compete.