Our Schools and the Matrix

Matrix 2.0 graphics for an upcoming blog piece
Matrix 2.0 graphics for an upcoming blog piece (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

A Matrix is described as something (such as a situation or a set of conditions) in which something else develops or forms. Like Neo in the Matrix, children have to choose the red pill or the blue pill. The red pill and its opposite, the blue pill, represent the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality or hard work of learning (red) and the blissful ignorance of illusion and laziness (blue). The teacher is Morpheus as he explains to Neo (the students) – “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill- the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill- you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth- nothing more”

The message received by Neo
The message received by Neo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pinon High School 1999 – gun – what would you do?

I am teaching Creative Writing at Pinon High School, Navajo Reservation, Arizona – it is 1999 and I have the coolest group of young Navajo students! I get a transfer student from Phoenix. A hard tough Nabaho gangbanger who was tossed from school in Phoenix and landed back on da rez. He was tough and he was a good kid who had been scrapping on the streets since he was young. I challenged all my students to keep a journal and I would keep the stories secret and his stories if only half true were hardcore! Stealing, drugs, fights and Juvy sum up all his stories because my word is still in effect.

45 -
45 –

The class is buzzing and of course I always seem to get the new student. Best principal ever, Colonel Mike Clark, seemed to always assign the new kids to my class…electives! In walks the new tough with his baggy pants and underwear showing all pimped out with chains and rings… okay I don’t remember any rings…but you get the picture. He walks on in and we begin. Four weeks later, I formed a bond with this young man because I refuse to judge a person on past or present, looks, clothes, bio, time served. This Monday afternoon he  walks into class late drops his notebook and when he bends down I see the glint of silver and ivory tucked into his waist. Shit, looks like a 45 ACP. Now stop and think – really stop reading and think – what would you do? (not what would Jesus do) what would you do?

Here is what I did –

I ignored the gun and greeted the student. I taught class just like it was all good. I asked my student to stay after for a minute. I walked up to my student and put my hand right on the small of his back and said what is this? “Shit, MF, what the…” I calmly said ” give me the gun and come to my house after school and I will return it to you” – No questions, no bullshit, just straight up. He gave me the gun and I put it in my desk drawer. I looked at him and said ” a drive by in Pinon is done with squirt guns because we are all poor” and he cracked a smile and laughed and said “I will be by after school”!

I never told the principal. I never told anyone till writing it today because that young man never ever gave me a problem in class. I am not going to name the student so all my wonderful students – you all know anyway! But with all the gun violence happening in Amerika today – I just wonder what you would have done?

This story is dedicated to Colonel Mike Clark who had my back in Pinon and Phoenix – you have my respect now and always!

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