The Chronicle of Higher Education
January 26th, 2015
A young child scribbling on a blackboard perched atop an easel in the hallway of a two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment.
That’s one of my earliest memories. I’m writing my ABCs and spelling
out three-letter words, fingertips and palms caked white with chalk. For
as long as I can remember, probably from about my second birthday, this
was my afternoon routine, a ritual mandated by my stepfather, who would
periodically make stops at the chalkboard on his way out the front
door, or to the bathroom, just to confirm that I was demonstrating the
kind of progress that he expected.
He was determined to make sure that I was better prepared for school
than all the other kids on the block. More to the point, he had
convinced himself that I already was. The man loved to pump me up with
positive reinforcement about my intellectual abilities, my God-given
gifts—only further enhanced by his judicious enforcement of my daily