This post was submitted by Jossimar Díaz Castro, member of the SVSLI Board of Directors
I began the struggle to grasp for an iota of consciousness during the last part of my years as a student in my high school. I began to be formed by a realization that Class – the compendium of racial, gender, economic, etc. markers – was a decisive element in the social organization of our school, and thus, in the character formation of us students. The more consciousness I struggled to grasp, the more conscience indicated to me that class organization and I – a Latino, immigrant, working-class, young man – just could note not engage favorably.
Basically, it seems I just couldn’t make it to the right class¹-room. I was led astray from the classrooms of fertile opportunity for cultivating academic virtues; to instead be dropped, not planted, in rocky-soils of barren classes. As I remember, during my junior-year, for reasons I understood as bureaucratic, confusing, opaque ESL-testing, I was placed in an ESL beginner-level English class where books were seldom –if at all- read and movies became the most humanized and engaging teachers for us, a thought-emaciated ESL group.
The day I remember to have been given my first book in English, after being bumped-up right at the beginning of my senior-year into a “regular” English-class (where we’d actually read certain books) I gorged the first book they gave us in one instant-long day. Huxley’s “Brave New World” fed me an answer or two as explications and resonances in the imminent struggle of my educational emaciation. A barely-digested interpretation salted with Huxleian tastes helped me perceive the polarity of my school’s institutional social division: I had been put in an Epsilon (or working-class, or immigrant-class) ESL class, and there was no way I could conventionally reach the Beta² (or quasi-burgoise, or upper-middle/middle-class) AP English class. The precipice dividing the ESL with the AP-class classes seemed insurmountable in the convention of our school’s classist organization. As I devoured Huxley and was satiated only with the sensation of a growing hunger for imaginative companions through literary conversation, I was prevented from making it to AP English during high-school.
A New York Times article published last year warns us of the continuing widening of the education gap. The classes of rich and poor, though still also of race, and surely of document statues/classes (undocumented, documented, citizen) are the machineries that today destroy our common ground.
In the face of these frightening precipices, it might just be that our student-scholars of the SLI are our society’s most marvelous engineers, bravely building a bridge across this Class-void that disjoints our classrooms and institutions of learning. And that we are the workers at their service, eager to assist in the construction of smart structures that invite educational access and growth.
Even as we remember that Rome was not build in one day, let us humbly work with a conviction that is resolved for a more Democratic U.S. Republic; one that stands on a platform of more accessible education.
Safe and diligent construction work to Us all!
—Jossimar Díaz Castro
¹ It might be interesting that this is the term we give to the places we order for dividing the “school-classes” of our children.
² Perhaps naively, I dare assume we don’t yet have Alphas (increasingly known famously as “one percenters” in the social parlance) in our still wonderfully provincial, local town of Harrisonburg.