radicalization of a fourth grader


I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got here—the unique series of events that brought be here, today. Sitting in front of a computer. Drafts of scripts to be written. Meetings to prep for. All as I fume at twitter conservatives and centrists and listen to the new Chance album playing softly in my impulse-buy AirPods. Why am I this way? How did this happen? What would happen if I threw it waaay back and retraced my steps to the formative year of fourth grade? Well, I guess I’ll see…

My fourth grade teacher was Mr. Flores. Our class was known to be the “recorder band classroom”, aka we all had to play a $5 plastic flute contraption and sing while Mr. Flores played the guitar. We performed at school assemblies, but also at the mall, which was a big fucking deal. It was in this classroom that I learned how to read music and play the piano at a level you’d expect when you’re learning with 30 other 9-year-olds.

Mr. Flores was a bit major, I realize now. He didn’t teach us anything about the California Missions, as was required by the state law. Instead, we learned how to do perspective drawings of cityscapes. As a nerd, this was annoying because I wanted to learn anything and everything to establish dominance, but knowing what I do now about colonization and religion, I appreciate this gesture. I think he didn’t agree with the erasure of American Indian culture and didn’t want to teach us about it, which I respect. Either that, or he really fucking liked drawing pictures of buildings. Could go either way, but I’m still grateful.

It was also in this class that I felt creativity was rewarded for the first time. We would get happy faces drawn on our essays and stories—the more the better (I think my record was 9). These made me think I was good at something in the arts field—the two dots and upside-down rainbow doodles gave me the direction I so needed. We made illustrated books to go with our stories. We went to lower grades and read them aloud. It was a culmination of different types of art—writing, drawing, performance—and it gave us the chance to explore what we liked, and didn’t like, to do. For instance, I found out that I hated children, even if they were only three years younger than me, but loved combining writing and illustration. You know how the rest of the story goes from there.

Looking back on this year, I wonder if I became smarter. The answer is probably no. You don’t become more conventionally intelligent by blowing into a plastic flute and coloring instead of reading your social studies book. BUT, did I learn valuable skills that benefit me to this day, and do I know how to draw skyscrapers with cool-ass windows? Hell yeah. As I age, I am becoming more aware of, and grateful for, those who have helped shaped me into the weirdo I am. Doing this gives me some insight into how what I do in the present will contribute to my future, and makes me aware of how my actions can affect others. Mostly, it just makes me want to teach kids that imperialism is bad an art is good. So, thanks for the radicalization, Mr. Flores.

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