School Is Hell
11 January 2022
It's Monday night.
I did some work today, as I usually do.
Filmed a video, edited it, subtitled it, sent it in.
Sent a few emails.
Worked on my resume.
Went to my GI to get my prescription replenished again.
And I did school work. I hadn't done that in about four weeks.
I went on vacation in the meantime. I should be well rested, ready for school.
But I'm not. I'm tired. I wasn't tired yesterday. Now I'm tired. I feel like I have to get all my other work for the week done tonight or I won't ever get it done in time to hit deadlines. Oh god, did I take on too much work? I have a meeting tomorrow for a new video editing job. Even today I was working on a resume to apply for another job in journalism. I put my name in the ring to be vice-chair of the Youth Council. I have a Year in Review video to record and edit. I was considering apply for the Youth Advisory Board.
Question: What the fuck am I doing?
Answer: Everything right.
I work hard on extracurriculars, I'm smart, I'm passionate, I'm a great writer, I seek out opportunities and follow them. But it all doesn't matter because School Is Hell.
Every time I get back from a break, I have one of these internal meltdowns. And all I did today was basically blow raspberries through a five question algebra quiz and answer a few multiple choice questions about the cardiovascular system. The simple thought of being subjected to school takes so much out of me that I feel I have to prepare myself for the fallout of actually doing it.
It's a neurodivergent thing. I'm autistic, I have ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia. In fact, I'm certain that were I neurotypical, this wouldn't be my experience at all. But when I'm in the moment? I can't rationalize that. I can't think "Oh, this system is designed for neurotypicals, you're neurodivergent, of course this isn't working for you."
I just feel stupid.
And I'm not. I'm really, really smart. And I don't say that to toot my own horn, I say it to point out the fact that school does not reward intelligence. It rewards people who work well in the very specific school structure we've built in the United States and much of the imperial core. And the thing that baffles me about it, is that that structure is not useful in the outside world.
The traditional take is that western schooling is not designed to impart useful skills and knowledge on to youth on a mass scale, rather it is designed to condition societal conformity and a disposition that is easily taken advantage of by both the government and the corporate world. But I can't bring myself to think that's the whole story.
Because if school was designed to generate conformity, why does it so frequently fail to resemble the greater world?
Take grading, for instance. In English class, I often get a sort of multi-part assignment. I make a draft, submit it, and then revise it and submit again as a different assignment. The problem is, if you do good enough the first time, you don't have enough to fix in the final submission, and fail to meet the grading rubric's requirements of fixing x amount of things from the last version, because there was nothing to fix. That sort of model encourages being sloppy the first time, and no boss will appreciate that.
My point here is that school isn't designed to generate conformity. It's designed to indirectly cull anyone who can't conform. To the extent that school actually generates conformity, it only teaches those who are already capable of conformity to be open to fitting into new structures. But more importantly, it effectively tortures anyone who is incapable of that sort of conformity, namely neurodivergent and disabled people, so that they come out deeply traumatized and even less capable of operating in normative society. School is an exercise in completing pointless tasks that cause you great suffering, only for a chance to be considered human.
And if you can't operate in normative society? Well, then you can't keep jobs. Can't live independently. Can't pursue passions. Can't be financially secure. And if you can't be part of society, well, it's not society's job to take care of you.
The strange thing about it is, I don't think it's working on me. School has traumatized me, sure. But I'm doing great outside of it. I'm productive as hell outside of school, I turn out good work quickly and I love doing it. Three weeks ago, an adult I work under in one of the programs I'm in said "[they] wish [they] could clone [me]." I'm gathering experience in journalism, social media, and video production. I have tons of other skills, I'm not great at any of them, but I know enough to be able to get better on my own and help out in a pinch.
And you know what that means? It means that they are wrong. Their whole pretense, that neurodivergent and disabled people aren't worth anything to them, is wrong. Capital can't afford to throw out it's brightest minds, it's most creative thinkers, it's most passionate workers. But it does, every single day, because it doesn't understand what it's missing out on.
Capital is the shallowest creature, it underestimates and it under-examines. It's plays fall short and it's ripostes fall shorter.
But that means that the neurotypical, able-bodied opposition to Capital needs to not make the same mistake. Capital may be shallow and weak, but if the left is too, how can you expect to make progress?
It is all of us together, or none of us at all.
Author's Note: I started writing this just as a rant about school, but it quickly ended up making a completely different point than I expected.