I talk a lot about how I’m being “prejudiced” against as a geek. It’s strong language, culturally, especially in urban and suburban America, to bandy about words like that. It’s even harder when the social stigma is attached to a label that can be applied to anyone, even people who do face far harsher oppression. Given that I’m in a position of social and cultural privilege, it may seem disingenuous to say that I’ve been the victim of discrimination.
When I was much younger, I’d lie awake at night and think what would have happened to me if I hadn’t been born when I was. I’m not physically strong, and I’m certainly not blessed with an overabundance of endurance. I kept thinking back to what would have become of me in the middle ages, in medieval Europe. Obviously I wouldn’t have been royalty, and certainly my intellect would not have been developed– I wouldn’t have even known how to read, much less learned how at the age of three. My temper problem would prevent me from being in the clergy. Most likely, I would have either been tortured into becoming a berserker, or just simply executed for being too smart for my own good.
It occurs to me that the exact same thing is happening to very intelligent people the world over, regardless of race, creed, culture, or gender. It’s happening in Uganda, as a child who’d be able to solve his village’s water crisis is being gunned down by another child soldier for a warlord who will never even acknowledge his very existence. It’s happening in North Korea, as a teenager who’d be able to rally for democratic reforms is having the creative leadership thinking indoctrinated out of him in a conscription camp. It’s happening in Iran, as a young adult who’d be able to develop a new communications paradigm refuses to do so out of fear of being disappeared by the government.
And don’t kid yourself. It’s happening in Pennsylvania, as incredibly intelligent students are being ignored by the system because they’re too smart for their grade level and the region they live in is too impoverished to support the educators that could challenge them. It’s happening in Colorado, as a teacher who honestly wants to make a difference in the lives of his students and be the mentor they desperately need is forced to flip burgers as the school he works at is closed down. It’s happening in Illinois, as students with special needs are being ignored by the public school systems that their parents pay for.
I mean this with every fiber of my being, and I will say it even as they put the blindfold on me and stand me up against the wall: Fix education, and you fix every social ill, ever, forever.