In today’s world such a high value is placed upon the idea of school and receiving a good education. Looking back on my schooling career, its interesting to see how the environment I was around as an adolescent has created the beliefs and the individual I see before myself today. Over my lifespan I have attended schools in three uniquely different places; the public schools of Pine Bluff, AR (1st till 8th grade), a private school in Greenville MS (8th till 11th grade), and another public school in Hot Springs, AR (11th and 12th grade).
Beginning with the public schools of Pine Bluff, I was a young Pakistani immigrant completely unaware of social ideas encompassed with a public school. As I began to learn the culture of America, I began to see the difference between the countries I had lived in before and this brand new world but I remained totally clueless of many issues that my classmates had been taught. It was not until Black History Month that I first became aware the true difference between an African American friend and a White friend. The concept of a month dedicated specifically to one race truly puzzled me. As the years went on and I progressed within the public school district of Pine Bluff, I could see a separation forming between my black friends and white friends. By the 4th grade, I could remember that only a handful of white students even went to my school and all of my own white friends had moved to surrounding city’s private schools. I always wondered why they had moved away. Were they not getting the same good education I was getting? Where they not in a good educational environment? As school further segregated me from my white friends and drew me closer to my African American friends, I inherently began to like the same things they enjoyed. With a new taste for loud rap music and baggy clothes, I never considered the idea that I like these things because my black friends do, it was simply because those things appealed to me as well.
After 7th grade, my parent’s work forced us to move to another small southern town, Greenville, Mississippi. When I moved here my parents were quite satisfied with the public education system of Pine Bluff as it served my older sister quite well, and I was in her following footsteps. I assumed I would continue my public education career, until my mother returned home one day saying that a better education could be gotten at a private school closer to my house. With hopes of continuing an enjoyable yet productive time at a “better” school, I was in open arms to private Washington School. Little did I know that this would be the one of the unhappiest times of my schooling career. From the first moment I stepped inside the school, I noticed I did not fit in very well or feel very welcomed to say the least. I walked in wearing my baggy jeans and oversized hoody and sat down as 20 white awkward faces stared me down. As the first few days went on, hardly anyone gave me a friendly welcome as I tried to integrate into their society. I was in complete culture shock in this new school, as it did not seem to fit in well at all with an all white crowd. It was strange to notice how a majority of the white students did not immediately show any friendly actions towards me, as they would later consider me to be a very good friend.
It was strange to say that until I went to Washington School, it was never made apparent to me that I was a person of color. Sure I knew I had brown skin and my friends had darker or lighter skin, but this was the first time that I had been treated completely different simply because the color of my skin and the “black” associated things I liked. Sick of this feeling, I applied to the Arkansas School for Mathematics Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs, Arkansas. This school is dedicated strictly for the advancement of Arkansas students in the fields of Math and Science. Considered one of the best schools in the state, I decided to attend and escape the culturally bias Washington School. At ASMSA I would go onto see that intelligence was not a result of the color of ones skin but the will to learn. Students at this school ranged from the “hoods” of Pine Bluff all the way to the pristine private schools of Little Rock. Races ranged from black, white, and many internationals, but the focus and the overall attitude of the students was completely accepting. My peers were not only receptive towards different races but also towards individuals with different sexual preferences. It seemed that this publically funded school created a mosaic of students united under one goal of a good education.
Looking back each of the schools has helped me form the person I am today. I continue to be proud of the fact that I can relate and have plenty of African American, White, and friends of other races. With that being said, how do you feel about the schools you have attended? Do you think the fact that they were private or public had something to do with the way you may have grown up?