One thing, or another

Friday 22 June, 2012:

TV’s on, and I’m watching a documentary about some kind of long term mentoring project, started ten years ago ago with a group of primary school kids; they’re now in year 13. Worthy: yes, I concede it is, despite the clichés. And the founder – a businessman and philanthropist – is genuine (if a little bit patronizing, with his talk of ‘good’ families, as opposed to ‘disadvantaged’ ones).

But something about it doesn’t sit with me He talks about the ‘soft racism’ of low expectations – he’s got a point. The tacit directing of particular groups of students (particularly in low-decile schools) into taking ‘vocational’, rather than university-approved subjects. But it still doesn’t sit with me. Because no matter how well meaning, it’s predicated on the unchallenged assumption that going to university is a social good; that it levels out the playing field; that university is unproblematic in terms of its value, equity, function; or as a predictor of future success. And any lens that uncritically views failure at school as the central problem (not to mention university entry as the pre-condition for its solution) – just doesn’t search far enough.

I wish I didn’t think this way, sometimes. I wish I could believe. But I can’t, and that’s after years of trying (hah and then at least three years of getting past the point of trying at all!!)


Now and then I still think: What’s wrong with me? That I can’t sentimentalize ‘success’ at school, the way teachers, and parents, and… people do. That I can’t ‘celebrate success’. What is it about me? Am I such a killjoy? But you know, I don’t think that’s it. I think I just have some missing piece, somewhere. Some piece that almost everyone else seems to have: sewn in, or implanted, when they get to a certain point in ‘education’. Well – I haven’t got it. I don’t know why.

I’m glad, but at the same time, it rattles me – it means that I’m always and always pretending, to some degree. To kids; to their parents; to teachers; to the management; to my family… to everyone except a few gangstas – and they save my sanity, pretty much. Because it’s only then I know I’m not alone.

I feel alone, sometimes; lots of times. But that’s probably not so bad. I wouldn’t give up my lack of belief for a million bucks, or for peace of mind. It’d be like getting that implant after all.


But then I go back to that question: So what do I do instead?  Oh, the contradictions inherent in my position. When all along the way: I don’t wanna see them fall. I want people to hold on, whichever way they want it. It isn’t that I believe school really offers them anything; it’s more that I believe they can go on and take something anyway. I don’t want what I ‘should’ want for them – or for me. Don’t want to change them. Don’t want them to be cowed. Don’t want their heads to bow to the stupid, false, rationality of it all. I don’t… I didn’t think it would be anything other than cruel to try to keep Tau and Nio at school. Despite missing them so much that I cried to myself every day, at first. And if I’m honest, I kind of celebrate that some people can’t bring themselves to be a part of it. Don’t believe in what it promises. Know what they might have to give up, to gain from it. And yet – if they do want it, I’ll be there with them, one hundred percent

Because I’m aware that you can hold on in many different ways. Hold onto courage, and to your soul. Zion: 70 credits at Level 1 now, despite everyone else’s predictions. Thing is – I’ll buy that too. I see the contradiction, but I have no problem with it. In war, pragmatism’s as good a strategy as any, if you want to win. Kick Quest out when he wants to stay? Hell no!

There’s satisfaction in beating the odds, too. There’s satisfaction in one thing, or another. It reminds me of lobbing hand grenades, blowing up one little corner, then setting up for another – and it all adds up. To something – I’m not sure what. But something.

More and more, I realize that I need to say this stuff. I actually do.


Sunday 24 June:

Nothing much happening today. Tau, Leroi, and Robbie appear for a short while. The other two are a lot more conversational than Tau, who looks preoccupied, tired, and slightly grim. He goes to get changed; meanwhile Leroi and Robbie chat to me outside. Then they leave in the rain – Tau driving Robbie’s car. My heart sinks just a little bit.


Friday 29 June:

Last day of Term Two. It isn’t anything out of the ordinary, really. Slade pops in near the end of lunch break, just to seek some advice, I think. I like Slade, though I hardly know him – just from Urban Art is all. Anyway, he tells me he was questioned by the DP’s today, on suspicion of tagging the toilets in the block. “It wasn’t me,” he said. “I know who did it though – Luxe.”

“Luxe?” I repeat.


“I don’t know who that is,” I sat.

“Yeah, well I do – and he’s amo,” Slade says. He rolls his eyes and then laughs a bit.

“And you didn’t say anything?” I ask, knowing what the answer would be.
“Nah – I’d never snitch,” Slade assures me.

“What if you found out that he said it was you. Would you name names then?”

“No, I still wouldn’t snitch. I’d just give him a hiding,” is the reply. “But I don’t think he did. I think it’s just cos I tag – it’s all I do in all my classes.”

I laugh, saying, “Oh well – if it wasn’t you, then they’ve got no evidence, have they. So there’s nothing they can do. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.”

Slade nods. He said, “I just don’t like the way the DP’s do things.”

“Neither do I,” I reply, honestly.

“Are they allowed to search us?”

“We-ell, technically they are, if you give them permission. They’re allowed to request it. But if you say no…”

“What happens then?” Slade asks, with great interest.

“Then, they can’t do anything unless they want to bring the police in. Or they could call your parents. Or if you consent to a search, you can ask for another adult you trust to be there – you’re allowed to do that. There are rules, you know.”

“I thought there must be,” Slade says. “I wish I knew what they were.”

“Well I know,” I tell him. “I’ve read them, every word.”

So we talk about this for a while, and I explain more about the guidelines for ‘Search and Seizure’. And then, a little later, Slade just casually says, “Luxe is Andre’s brother, Miss – Rawiri.”

“Oh, really?” I’m kind of surprised. “I Didn’t even know he tagged.”

“Yeah – he’s pretty amo.”

I just nod. I see that Slade is giving me a certain amount of trust, and I appreciate it.


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