Thursday, September 3, 2015

Othello Sings the Blues

 “Her father loved me, oft invited me;
Still questioned me the story of my life.”
“From year to year — the battles, sieges, fortunes
That I have passed.  I ran it through, even from my boyish days
To th’ very moment that he bade me tell it.”  -Othello

Recently I was sitting down with the mother of one of my former students, a Canadian woman, and she was lamenting the bittersweet difficulty of raising her child abroad.  
 “I spoke of most diastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field;
Of hairbreadth scapes i’ …sold to slavery;
of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels’ history;
Wherein of anters vast and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven.”  -Othello

On the one hand, you’ve got this beautiful kid.  Multi-cultural.  Bilingual. With an incredible series of adventures and experiences under their belt at such a young age to draw upon for future use.  But on the other, an often ostracized and bullied individual who never can completely be accepted within a culture because of the color of their skin.  It’s a kind of child that the world needs desperately, but they pay a price.
 “It was my hint to speak — such was the process;
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders.”  -Othello

This particular student had incredible tales to tell.  Homeroom teachers that called her “stupid” and “dirty foreigner.” Math teachers that refused to help and criticized the parents for not sending her to cram schools that finish at 11 p.m.  Mean and vicious classmates who plotted against her, mean girls who stole homework out of her bag and broke her glasses.  She was even stabbed at school by a psychopathic boy, and I sat in the meeting as the mother screamed at school administrators for doing nothing.  
 “This to hear
Would Desdemona seriously incline…with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse.
My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs.”  -Othello

Now here we are two years later.  Sitting in my friend Peter the Russian’s apartment talking.  Exasperated, the parents had tried everything, even sending their daughter home for six months to finish the school year with relatives in Ottawa.  Eventually, the conversation turned to home-school, a subject I had been thinking greatly about for the past few years.  
 “She wished…that heaven had made her such a man.
If I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story,
And that would woo her.” -Othello

It’s not that, the traditional path of life or education doesn’t always fit certain kids, it’s more that … why do you have to follow the traditional path at all?  What is school?  What is this colossal opus of time and effort that each person must arduously venture through?  What are these numbers of classes and hours and grades in a ledger that are checked-off for each person as they ride unwittingly along the conveyor belt of life toward mass production?  For what?  Who says this is the correct way?
“She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have used.”  -Othello

So there we sat, contemplating the merits of home-school.  The big parental question… what the heck to do with your kid?  And as she talked, I started musing about Othello.  The black skinned Moor, who rose to General in the Italian army and the men who jealously conspired against him, accusing him of stealing the love of Desdemona with witchcraft.  Othello, a man of war, whose bloody destruction would ultimately become a cautionary tale, defending himself with words.  He won Desdemona with stories.  Stories!  Battling giants.  Escaping slavery.  Wandering through desert wasteland.  Witnessing the world on his own terms.  That’s all anyone can hope to have in life.  Degrees and Diplomas.  Accolades and Accomplishments.  These are wonderful things… But what it really comes down to is, your child is going to tell the story of their life, it’s their story, give them something unique.  Something spectacular.  A tale that inspires others to do the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment