School is Social (and Academic)

Navigating school requires social skills, and often the most successful academically are also successful socially.


Despite the stereotypes of jocks and nerds, geeks and goths, consider actual data. To participate in athletics, a minimum GPA is required. I recall the star athletes from my high school and today those individuals are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. They were involved in student government, and later joined organizations at their colleges and universities.

The "privileged" students had time to participate in sports, music, drama, and student government. They were raised in reasonably secure and successful households. They understood the rules of high school and, later, the universities. The balanced academic and social skills, leading to academic and professional success for themselves after high school.

The student who can feign admiration for a teacher or professor? She does well, for some reason. Teaching assistants at the university particularly seemed to be swayed by adoration.

And then you have the true outsider, the true stereotype. Bullied by students and teachers, this is the geek. For many autistic students, this is a harsh reality in school. It continued on into the university experiences.

As summer ended and school started, I began the process of clearing out old work from my time as a student. I completed courses at seven colleges and universities. These included two state universities, a community college, and four private universities (earning two bachelor's degrees, a master's degree, a master of fine arts, and a doctorate).

While I was tossing my old undergraduate papers to reduce our clutter, I caught myself reading the "feedback" from instructors and getting angry.

TAs and professors included rather harsh (today, we'd consider them mean) comments on my early papers at USC in the 1980s. I was called ignorant, sloppy, unprepared, and "out of my league" by professors. The grades were consistently C/C- until mid-way through every single semester. Some of the notes should have an instructor fired today.

"Maybe you can move back to the trailer park." "You don't know basic French? Total f- up. Quit now." "Why are you here if you haven't read the Latin classics? You don't understand anything about Plato." "What hick place are your from, again?"

More uses of profanity than I recalled. Ouch. Lots of profanity in the comments.

So, I spent a lot of time reading and trying to catch up to my classmates, who were prepared by their schools for the type of place that was USC. I'm the type of person to fight back to prove someone wrong, but what about all the other first-generation students who didn't attend the best high schools or have extra preparation?

I lacked the social charm to offset my struggles. Had I been more charming, I imagine professors or TAs or someone offering assistance. Maybe, if I had been more aware of how things work, I would have located an academic support office. Something. I'm not sure what existed in the 1980s.

Today, I still struggle with reading and writing - and yet, I am a writer. But only because I insist on defining myself at any cost.

I still see the emphasis on the social in university courses I observe. Teachers still want to be praised and adored. I'm still the person, even as an observer, who will instead express my actual thoughts, opinions, and current research findings.

Social skills would have been valuable. I still need them and don't have them.

Comments

  1. I remember that Wenn Lawson had very similar comments especially during his high school days, Scott.

    I think to myself - what were those people on [the staff, I mean]?

    "The student who can feign admiration for a teacher or professor? She does well, for some reason. Teaching assistants at the university particularly seemed to be swayed by adoration. "

    And they feel not very much above the students and probably got their Teaching Assistance jobs through good social skills. The warm fuzzies involved!

    Were they trying to get you to react and change with those words? Have just read Gavin Bollard on Asperger's and pain - the latter of which you would know a lot about.

    "I'm the type of person to fight back to prove someone wrong, but what about all the other first-generation students who didn't attend the best high schools or have extra preparation?

    I lacked the social charm to offset my struggles. Had I been more charming, I imagine professors or TAs or someone offering assistance. Maybe, if I had been more aware of how things work, I would have located an academic support office. Something. I'm not sure what existed in the 1980s. "

    This was before the Americans with Disabilities Act? And you weren't in Minnesota until the early 2000s - that was a pioneering state. And pre-Lanterman California was not a nice place either.

    You might have ended up running rings and supporting everybody in that office - especially if it were like Purdue.

    And Carol Gray wrote about the dangers of praise and adoration especially the more overt sort and she told special education teachers to "lose the perkiness" by the late 1980s and the Jenison Schools Transition Grant. It is a formidable tool in 2017, believe me!

    And you're doing right when it comes to clutter - throwing away the things which never gave you or anyone joy except the joy of malice and ignorance.

    ReplyDelete

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