The All-Genius Class
Dreamed 2007/5/1 by Wayan
An all-genius highschool class convenes in the back of Safeway Supermarket. I'm a student. We get back a quiz. All perfect scores, of course, except for one kid who got one answer "wrong" deliberately--he disagreed with the teacher. He says "The question asked 'How does the artist want us to feel?' Well, I can't psychoanalyze the artist, I can only go by how he made ME feel--and as a black kid I feel differently about the Dentons than you all do"--the Dentons are, in the dream, a cartoon family of black geniuses drawn by Aaron McGruder (who did Birth of a Nation, about East Saint Louis seceding from the US after their ballots were ignored). The white teacher does concede "The Dentons may read differently based on your life experience".
We get into a big car; we're going on a field trip. The teacher drives east over the Bay Bridge. Mt Diablo is slow to appear; I try half-heartedly try to convince myself that a lesser peak is Diablo, knowing it isn't. At last it shows, very faintly; quite a hazy day.
My bare feet touch the toes of a gifted boy in the next seat. I worry he'll freak out. So many gifteds are paranoid or hair-trigger angry--no surprise, the way we get shunned and bullied.
That kid has no problem, but our teacher IS full of rage. This field trip isn't just to visit something in the East Bay, it's to DESTROY that something, in the name of our oppressed minority--gifteds.
"Um... there is no Interstate 440. At least not around here."
"Oh, I mean 480." Sounds more plausible, most interstates here end in 80, but 480? We all draw a blank.
"What are we going to destroy on it?"
"On it? No, we're destroying the whole thing," says our teacher.
"But violence is WRONG."
"Oh, we won't hurt anyone, just make it unusable for months." Huh? MONTHS? How?
Tellingly, I don't have strong feelings about his plot--either way. As long as no one gets hurt, disrupting traffic doesn't upset me a bit. Nor does risking capture and public scandal--our teacher will be blamed, I know we won't go to jail. So if he wants to, I just don't care! The cause, protesting & publicizing how bad the gifted programs are in our schools (how bad? Pretty bad!) is one I support. Only his target seems weird.
As I ask what our teacher plans, and how much we'll be involved, I wake.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
TEN YEARS LATER
A fantasy novel, Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones, made me rethink my college experience. It's her take on the magic-school tale. Less funny than Harry Potter, but subtler: Miss Umbridge was a broad parody, and had a sadistic Thatcherite glee. But Jones's academic hacks are dull, rationalizing, empty men, and her portraits of mediocrity stunting creative talent, not quite inadvertently, are scathingly realistic. At my college, I faced some of the tactics in the book almost word for word.
The ending felt too neat--everyone found love easily by the end. Like Jones handed out love as a Shakespearean reward (his comedies end in weddings). But I want to see how to find/win love, and unearned love doesn't teach me.
Or does it? First time I read the book, I overlooked a love-lesson I spot now on second reading. Elda the griffin and her friends each risk a lot to get to the best magic school on the continent, where others share their passion--where finding a soulmate is possible. Jones argues that great mentors are rare even at prestigious schools. What you can hope for are friends, lovers, peers--and that's enough.
In contrast, I had little money, so I finished my degree at a nearby cheap commuter school. Good reputation, but... I got what I paid for. Teachers were competent, and a few like Avery were brilliant, but they were casting pearls before swine; my classmates just didn't care. They were training to be art historians, not artists; teachers, not writers; engineers not scientists. Not passionate--not my peers!
Fight for scholarships to a college where you'll meet others who share your passions. Or forget college, just follow your passion directly, and lure your peers to you.
As I formatted this for uploading, I finally saw what Highway 440/480 almost certainly is. Music! Middle C is about 480 hertz (cycles per second); Middle A, 440 Hz. Why did I get it now, not then? Back then, teachers discouraged me from composing because I wasn't a facile player likely to make it professionally; they pushed me toward visual art and writing. Music's more on my mind now, since our band the Krelkins is recording our first album. Oh-so-slowly. And is some of that slowness sabotage? The dream hints it may be.
Anyway... sometimes it takes a decade to see the obvious. Dreamwork or not.
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