December 17, 2008

Getting through

The theme lately at Goat Rope is hard times and how to get through them. The last two posts were about poverty and the role of education, broadly conceived, in helping people escape it. Yesterday's post was about a program that provides economically disadvantaged people with college level classes in the humanities.

As fate would have it, the humanities helped me get though the economic depression that hit West Virginia in the 1980s. It was baaaad. I was working at a low wage job and picking up any extra work on the side and trying to provide for two young children. At times, it seemed like there was no way out.

As mentioned in the last two posts, being in poverty sometimes feels like being a hunted animal. The writer Earl Shorris called it, accurately in my opinion, a "surround of force."

It would have been nice if we had an administration at the time that cared about working class and poor people, but that wasn't on the menu. There was no social movement waiting in the wings to come to the rescue.

One thing you have to do in a situation like that is just Get Through Time while you're waiting for conditions to change or opportunities to occur. And there are some ways of getting through time that can make you stronger and other ways that make you weaker.

One thing that saved me was starting an ambitious reading program of my own on work breaks and lunch hours and other stolen moments. It didn't put any extra cash in my pocket at the time but it enriched me and gave me a chance to think and reflect when I couldn't do much else. And over time, it was an investment well worth the effort.

About which more tomorrow.




Martha Yager said...

In the 1960s my dad, a high school art teacher, was trained in a national initiative to create humanities classes for non-college bound seniors in rural Vermont. It was a two period class that taught world history through art, music and literature. They later developed an American History class for juniors taught the same way. The material was not watered down - just taught in a way that connected to the current world. And the responses of the students were often profound. Don't know what became of the program - probably cut so they could teach to the test.

El Cabrero said...

You're probably right about it being cut--more's the pity. If people really realized how dangerous (in a good way) the humanities are, they would probably be outlawed.