My Second Leap
—I believe there were some small jumps after my first leap, but I’m only going to talk about the big leaps that brought significant changes to my life.
I’d say that the second big leap came after the decision not to go to junior high school (7-9th grades) at the school near my apartment in Reparto Eléctrico, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana. Instead, I decided to go to a boarding school in the countryside.
These schools are designed to form a new type of person, cultured and hard-working, by combining studying with farm work.
Living far from the city, the students would see their parents only on the weekends when given a pass to go home. Given my shyness and young age of 14, going to boarding school was a major decision, but even bigger was the world I would experience once there.
The boarding school seemed designed to mold delinquents, judging by the quantity of abuse and vandalism I saw on a daily basis, including theft; destruction of work and study materials; verbal and physical abuse of students by teachers and of younger students by older ones; and arguments that ended with much violence. The farm work was also very strenuous for such young teenagers.
The experience was very traumatic for me, and I ended up going to eighth and ninth grade back home in my neighborhood. However, it left me marked by the experience of a life amid violence and the certainty that from there on, solitude was going to be my companion.
Then, after years of silence, my most important discovery was reading. I devoured every book I got my hands on without a guide. I didn’t know where I wanted to go with each new world that books gave me.
2 thoughts on “<em>My Second Leap</em>”
Such problems have little to do with ‘natural’ human anything: they always have everything to do with planning which does not involve democratic oversight — i.e.: rational feedback and awareness. Even under conditions of lack of resources, any undertaking can be a success — if decisions made along the way concerning their development are not arbitrary and irrational, and not subject to scrutiny and open challenge, etc.
I’m sure the concept and praxis of such schools is still a perfectly good idea, even now. Maybe moreso now.
During an earlier visit to Cuba in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the “Schools to the Countryside” movement SEEMED like a good idea. Somehow, though, good ideas often go awry, whether by poor implementation, or just natural vileness and evilness of humans; the same is true up here in the States: the history of our public educational movement is littered with failed initiatives.. Still, I’m sure your experiences, negative that they be, will provide grist–or, in Cuba, sugar–for your mill. You can use these experiences in your memoirs, in your fiction, etc. Love of reading is a good basis for self-liberation and self-actualization. I await your next installments, Leonid!
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