Education – who’s responsible?

So, the other day I was on Facebook, and made a few disparaging comments about where I went to high school. I was referring to the high school itself, and also the town where I was living at the time.

I completed grades 11 and 12 (junior and senior year for those more familiar with the US system) in Townsville. It’s a city of about 200k in North Queensland, Australia. Commonly referred to as redneck central. I’m not saying that I agree with that term, but it has an element of truth to it in my experience. I’m not saying that in ignorance, I lived there for 10 years – when I graduated high school, I then went on to attend James Cook University.

My comments on Facebook were basically referring to the fact that I wasn’t especially keen on the thought of moving back there. Without going into details, the whole moving thing relates to a potential job.

I got blasted for it by one person on my friends list – she happens to be Townsville born and raised, and never lived anywhere else in her life. This is also someone who I’ve not actually spoken to in the 16 years since I graduated high school, and someone I was never especially close to in high school in the first place. We’re Facebook friends, but we don’t actually talk to each other. She knows absolutely nothing about my life – and I think it’s a bit rich for her to criticise me for my comments under the circumstances. Ultimately I think that limited life experience happens to explain the whole incident, but still…

Quite a number of my friends live in Townsville, or lived there before moving on. The rest of them pretty much agreed with my apprehension about moving back. I mean, the fact that “we have a Myer store now!” seemed to be its best selling point? Speaks volumes.

But back to the friend who blasted me for not liking the place a whole lot – she said that I shouldn’t say anything bad about the place because it gave me an education.

Thought provoking. Who exactly is responsible for my education and my success?

Sorry, but it’s not Townsville.

I went to an absolutely terrible high school in Townsville. The bullying was horrific, the teachers refused to do anything about it, the administration refused to do anything about it. In fact, some of the teachers were the ones responsible for the bullying in the first place. I had one teacher who told me that the most I could hope for was to work as a secretary in a lab when I mentioned wanting to be a scientist – because women don’t belong in science. That was the culture that prevailed at the school, and was also quite prevalent in the local community.

I worked my ass off to graduate near the top of the class and get into the degree I wanted at university. I did that not because of the school or the city, but in spite of it.

Then, university. I had to deal with a bunch of other crap at university, and yet again managed to succeed in spite of certain circumstances.

Living in Townsville was not a pleasant experience for me, and in the end I left.

I had the experience of growing up elsewhere, so knew that some of the things that happened in Townsville weren’t normal, weren’t acceptable – as much as some of the locals just seemed to take it as such. I’d also been to other schools, and I knew that the attitude of the teachers and administration wasn’t acceptable.

So should I be eternally grateful to Townsville for providing me with an education? No. I got myself an education and succeeded despite Townsville, not because of it.

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