On January 11, 2018, I became an "official" volunteer with my first student. Initially, I was supposed to be paired up with a young woman--but she didn't show up on time and this young man was already there so he and I were assigned to each other. To be honest, when I first saw him I immediately thought of the notion that he was probably a supporter of Donald Trump. He just looked the part. I thought I would be uncomfortable at first but, as I've said many times, I never meet a stranger so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I was also thinking he needed MY help so whatever thoughts he might have had about working with an African-American he needed to put them aside in order to accomplish his goal for the two and a half hour session.
I started out by correcting him when I asked him a question and he said "It don't matter." I responded, "The correct sentence is "It doesn't matter." Not sure how well that went over but he didn't challenge me on it. Then he broke the ice by commenting on the LeBron James jersey I was wearing. My husband knows full well that a way to my heart is talking about sports so I was more than willing to engage in a lively discussion about whether or not LeBron would be leaving Cleveland after the season and why the Cavs have so much talent but they still "suck." (His words not mine). During the conversation I learned he was a big Carolina Panthers fan and he predicted it would be the Patriots vs. the Eagles in this year's Super Bowl.
Once we got down to business, I discovered this young white male who, on the surface, has more "privilege" than I ever will, is truly illiterate. He couldn't pronounce some words that are a normal part of my vocabulary---like diligent, avid, pacify, consensus, mediate. And if you can't pronounce the word, you certainly aren't going to know the meaning of it. So we spent the time matching vocabulary words to their meanings and including them in sentences.
The sad thing is this student is among approximately 32 million Americans who can't read, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education and National Institute of Literacy.
Here are some other statistics:
1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.
Students who don't read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of school.
Just over 59 percent of voters who supported Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suffer from moderate to severe illiteracy. (Source: Real News Now)
I don't know what this young man's personal story is, nor do I know if he did, indeed, vote for Trump. But I do know he is illiterate and fits the profile of a Trumpster.
How ironic that the fate of his language arts success would lie in the hands of this well-educated black woman. God is working through both of us for His greater good.