Where ever we live on the planet, we get challenged many times in our lives. I’ve written about these 2 years at Proviso High School as part of my path to Super-Aging because I believe at that Saturn return in my late 20’s I had to face my greatest life’s challenge and learn courage. Facing that challenge has made life in general and aging specifically easier.
All Rioting stopped with video cameras in every hallway. My students and I became very aware that the 3 classes of students in the school were still treated differently. Prejudice was rampant in the school. And so, we set about doing undercover research. We knew the principal and vice principals would not agree to our research.
We noticed that when a white kid dressed in the middle class fashions went into the halls past hall monitors they almost never were asked where they were going. They didn’t get stopped for the monitor to initial the pass. Greaser kids would be stopped 2 or 4 times on the way to the office and back. Black kids were almost always stopped at every point and would come back with 5-6 hall monitor initials. And so we researched it every day for a week. I would send out with the classes’ knowledge 3 kids of the different social classes in my class and ask them to spend 10 minutes in the hallways from the 3rd floor to the office and back.
Every time the result was similar. Maybe a “white” kid would get one initial or none. Greasers would get 3 or 4 stops and initials in that time. Black kids would be stopped by almost every hall monitor and come back with their pass initialed 5-7 times during the extended time I requested.
Finally all the students in my classes conceded that there was a great deal of prejudice in the school. The “Greasers” especially had not grasped the amount of prejudice they faced in the school. It was a relief for me to realize that this group was understanding how unfairly they were treated within the system.
I saved the passes. I shared the passes and discussed the results with my Department Head. She wasn’t surprised. She wouldn’t do anything with the information. She warned me to be careful and told me my tenure was in question.
As advised by the School Superintendent I allowed my students to discuss human relations as it related to them during the first 15 minutes of every class. It was appropriate in language arts classes to practice speaking in front of an audience. Other students came to me in admiration. The faculty and administration grew colder toward me.