My fathers had a tremendous influence on my life and on my views of education.
Grandpa left Georgia as a 17 year-old with his 16 year-old bride seeking jobs and a better life up North. My grandfather was semi-illiterate but stressed education for his children and grandchildren. He made me read the daily newspaper aloud to him each evening when he got home from work.
His son, my father, also took getting educated very seriously. After serving two tours in Korea, then starting his own family, Dad went back to school as a role model for us and because he was truly a lifelong learner. I was my Dad’s typist. He worked midnight shift, and while he slept in the evenings preparing to go to work, I was wading through the legal pad drafts of his college papers, meticulously publishing them on our manual typewriter.
Daddy’s lessons to my siblings and I on education were consistent and pointed.
Lousy report cards: “D is for didn’t do a damned thing.”
Don’t like the teacher: “Teach yourself the subject, use the teacher to fill in the parts you can’t figure out on your own”
Tests are hard: “Learn the subject of the course until you understand it; the tests and grades will take care of themselves.”
The same man who flipped me over his knee and spanked me in front of the entire 6th grade for talking back to the teacher, led a parent protest at the magnet high school demanding that my classmates and I not be suspended because we had demonstrated against racism there.
My father first piqued my interest in journalism and writing by letting me join him in his daily critiques of the network news. We didn’t just watch the news, we challenged it. He gave me a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, then pushed my thinking about various points in it. Dad was both a fierce patriot and one of America’s most ardent critics. Looking over his glasses at me as he drafted yet another letter to the editor of the local paper, he declared, “I have earned the right to tell them when they’re wrong.”
He taught me how to think for myself (what we now call critical thinking), and not to be easily led, especially by the media.
It’s one of many lessons from my fathers that I treasure and teach.
Photo by Renee Moore, Martin L. King Memorial, Night View