Among other issues, Coates discusses some crucial issues related to being a curious black boy up against a not-so-caring educational system.
He mentions absorbing books "about my own, and further, about foreign places and geographies." Still, "whenever someone threatened to put a grade on it, I fell asleep and lost interest."
Although his parents wanted him to understand that "school was a weapon" against the "war upon us," Coates found the whole process of school--"with its equally spaced desks, precisely time periods and lectures, with its standardized pencils and tests"--"unnatural."
As much as he disdained school, what he hated more was failing. That left him with
a great unconscious sadness, an emptiness which, even when I was alone, I was not fully aware. But it worked on me like an invisible weight, altered my laughter, posture, my approach to girls. Fuck what you have heard or what you have seen in your son. He may lie about homework and laugh when the teacher calls home. He may curse his teacher, propose arson for the whole public system. But inside is the same sense that was in me. None of us ever want to fail. None of us want to be unworthy, to not measure up (170).
Later, toward the end of the chapter Coates repeats "No matter what the professional talkers tell you, I never met a black boy who wanted to fail."
I'm really fascinated and impressed by how Coates pushes us to consider with something we've always known but need to hear more about: that school systems can regularly fail curious, intelligent black boys.
I'm also drawn to how Coates feels passionate enough about the subject to interrupt his narrative to make the strong point about black boys not wanting to fail.
I've notated those points, and I'm reminding myself to really discuss those issues with the young brothers next year when we're reading the book. Any particular ideas we should communicate to the group about those points? Or, what else about chapter 6 stood out to you and was of particular interest?
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