Saturday, August 2, 2008


Last night I spent some time looking at Dean Spade and Tyrone Boucher's new website, In their words: "Enough is a space for conversations about how a commitment to wealth redistribution plays out in our lives: how we decide what to have, what to keep, what to give away; how we work together to build sustainable grassroots movements; how we challenge capitalism in daily, revolutionary ways." Browsing around, I read Kriti Sharma's essay "More Than Enough: Precarious Lives, 'Mere' Survival, and Abundant Joy", and while there is a lot of great stuff in there, I laughed out loud at her revelations about being an "exceptional" and "special" student growing up:

"How strange it is to be 'exceptional'. This goes without saying—'exceptional' is one of the very meanings of the word 'strange'. I mean strangely unnerving, disconcerting. I loved being 'special', even though I knew it divided me from others, even though it fueled competition and fanned destructive jealousies, even though it made my confidence brittle and thin—a teacup on a roller-coaster, sometimes high, sometimes low, always on the verge of breaking. Though I attended mixed-race, mixed-class Canadian public schools my entire life, my closest friends were other solidly professional middle-class overachievers who also had strong attachments to being 'special'—that is, to gaining the approval and support of authority figures, excelling in mainstream institutional academics, and 'being leaders' in clubs, student governments, and community groups. I was in high school before I finally figured out that I was not alone—that, ironically, I was part of a class of people who felt exceptional!"

Earlier in the essay, she says, "I was the first kid to read in my kindergarten class. It was then that I was labeled 'gifted'. And, in fact, I was gifted, in the sense that my grandmother gave me the gift of her time and energy to read to me every day. I was gifted to have books, time, attention, and education. If I was gifted, the gifts came from somewhere and from somebody, but the psychologists who tested me and asked me questions behind closed doors didn’t seem interested in where the gifts came from, only in whether or not I had them. I passed all of their tests, I guess, because I was accelerated a grade."

I had never thought about "gifted" in those terms: who is the gift from, where is the gift from? Though I have thought a lot about the questions she raises, having also been a "special," "gifted," "accelerated" child, and having taught all sorts of "special" children, though this will be my first year teaching middle-class children, of the kind I was--the special children I've been teaching have been working-class and poverty-class, immigrant children and children of color, and "special" in the same way Kriti and I were (chosen for gifted programs through an application process and standardized testing) as well as "special" in all those other ways kids can be (yeah, "special ed", also "English Language Learners," in addition to my "regular" students--but you know many of those "regular" kids were just as special as any of the other ones--I'm gonna say it: really, what kid isn't?).

Today I read a lot of the background about the site, explained here with links to the original material on Dean's livejournal. So much of it is interesting and feels really relevant, as I sit here in my own apartment in Portland (at 32, I've never lived alone before), with my brand new car parked out front (never had one of those before either). The car will take me to my job as a teacher, in a suburban public school that is a mile from the nearest public transportation. I'm also making a financial and quality-of-life decision to work part-time, so I can start writing again, which I haven't been doing since I started teaching full-time while going to school nights to finish my Master's in Ed.

I don't know how anybody has time to read all (or even much of what) there is to read online, but I plan to spend some more time looking over before school starts, thinking more about the ways my life, my world, and my choices fit into their analyses and questions. Nice work, Dean and Tyrone. Thanks.

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