Educational Segregation: my truth about labels, boxes and categories [Part I ]

Preteen

I have always had the greatest dislike about being placed in any one box or category, whether good or bad. My reason has always been premised on the fact that the category you are placed in often dictates the way people see you, treat you and, if you aren’t careful, the way you ultimately view yourself. On one hand, being placed in a specific category allows persons with similar interest to connect, socialise and network with each other. On the other hand, it is used as a premise for excluding those who do not fit within a particular, man-made definition. In my experience, it has most commonly been used for the latter purpose.

… the category you are placed in often dictates the way people see you, treat you and, if you aren’t careful, the way you ultimately view yourself.

As a child, I simply wanted to be a child; I wanted to run around, play with my friends and then focus on school — in THAT order. After four years of pre-school, the school I attended implemented a system whereby each child’s placement was determined solely by his/her academic performance. There was no “mixture”, the kids who performed at the highest level were grouped together and those who did not were grouped together as well. Although I excelled academically, I was the type of child who enjoyed every activity under the sun and was never discouraged when I wasn’t very good at something. However, after the new system was implemented I was heavily encouraged to focus on one thing; extra hours turned into extra classes and an rounded child was moulded into an academic prospect.

I was the type of child who enjoyed every activity under the sun and was never discouraged when I wasn’t very good at something.

Additionally, that system resulted in mass segregation : the smart kids stayed with the smart kids, the athletes with the athletes and the other smaller groups followed suit. There was this “you can’t sit with us mentality” that was planted in our young minds which flourished far beyond the walls of that institution, trickled into our teenage years and remained well into adulthood. Persons that I knew for the first couple years of my life became strangers and strangers became familiar faces.The days where we saw each other as equals became a thing of the past as we no longer saw faces, only features.

There was this “you can’t sit with us mentality” that was planted in our young minds which flourished far beyond the walls of that institution.

Eventually, I no longer participated in any activity outside of academia and I started to limit who I was because I accepted others’ definition of me as my truth. Slowly, I regressed to Sharla the characteristic and in doing so I neglected Sharla the person.

To be continued.

Sharla T Weir.

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