Wednesday, 26 March 2014

I Never Knew Why

"I recently celebrated my 69th birthday and have been reflecting on my life in the form of a scrapbook; writing about my upbringing, school, working years etc..  Whilst compiling memorabilia and photos for this project I realized that unbeknownst to me, for years I have withheld giving any information pertaining to my school years to anyone but never knew why.  

I was always under the impression that I had completed the required years of education, and even took an "extended" course in typing, successfully landing an office job immediately after simply walking out of the school gate for the last time.  A few years later I married and emigrated to the U.S.A. I had two daughters and as they grew older I re-entered the workforce at which time I also decided I wanted to further my education.  Feeling somewhat smug at the prospect, after all, I excelled at various subjects in secondary school:  I could read and write by the time I entered infant school, had excellent penmanship which had earned me a certificate and an italic pen as a prize, had excellent reading skills, and also possessed a certificate of excellence in embroidery.  In fact I felt quite confident when I first strutted in for an interview at a local community college. 

The first blow was when I was asked for my high school transcripts.  My heart sank and the shattering truth was realized in that I was not going to be accepted.  I remember going home and thinking that for 1) I never attended high school like the american children did - I attended a "secondary" school, and 2) I did not have any document, except for a couple of torn report cards, to even show that I had ever attended ANY school.  Needless to say I never went back to the college, but still with some optimism I sent a couple of letters to the County Council where I had attended school requesting information for proof of my attendance, and even had the gall to ask for documentation that I had completed school, which were totally dismissed. 

I felt cheated whenever anyone would talk to me about my educational experience, as it was considered with my current employment, that surely I was not a "drop-out." It then occurred to me that it was looked upon as though I had not "graduated," so from that time on I found myself cleverly changing the subject with feeble humor never again disclosing my age of "completing" school. Over the years I did manage to maintain gainful employment by taking courses to upgrade my skills in a local business school, and also receiving on-the-job training to keep me abreast of required job qualifications. 

I do NOT remember taking the 11+ exam (I didn't even know it had a name), but it has been embedded in my brain and has haunted me for all of these years that I failed a test in school when I was quite young that obviously dictated whether I would be offered the opportunity to further my education in a positive way, or rather be stifled educationally due to failing an obvious flawed exam at the tender age of 10, which favored from what I've been reading, children from a more affluent background than myself, that environment was also a factor, and yes, could it have also been because I was female? 

A couple of years ago I asked a close friend of mine who resides in England if she remembered anything about taking a test when we were very young, and she did. She even offered a little extra information that made me cringe even more, informing me that we left at the age of fifteen, whereas I was under the impression we were the ripe old age of sixteen. Then one day I googled "Tests given at school in the 1950's in England," and I was absolutely astounded to read some of the material regarding the educational system at that particular time depicting evidence of "pollution" as far as the scoring system. I do feel comfort in that obviously there are many other "victims" out there bearing this emotional scar from years ago.  How AWESOME that this period will go down in the history books."


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  1. I often wonder what happened to Tim.
    He and I competed to be top of the class in our first year at Secondary Modern school. He won two terms out of three.
    Our contest ended then because thanks to a persistent mother, I was only there a year before going on to grammar school.
    I'd attended a two-classroom village primary school as it headed towards closure and because my birthday was after 2 September I was due to stay an extra year. But I'd got as far as they could take me so my mother, with the help of a superb head teacher, persuaded the authorities to let me move on to the Secondary Modern and take my 11+ there.
    I passed but Tim, who was clearly as bright as I was and probably brighter, had for some reason 'failed'. So I got the advantage of the grammar school which set me on the path to careers in publishing, television and journalism.
    I don't know what happened to Tim. But I do know it seemed and seems the wrong way and the wrong age to decide a child's future.

  2. Thanks very much for your thoughts