Detroit – Hutchins Intermediate/Crosman Alternative school
The whole life ahead
The future. They hold the future in their eyes. You should see them, in this spring months of 1922. They are proud of being part of an innovative education system: since a few years, upper grades have become mandatory in the state of Michigan. A distant rag-time lingers in the air. Wars and financial crises are getting closer and closer, and racial tensions will damage the whole social fabric soon. My first students, though, are oblivious to this apocalypse. They are standing in groups, in front of my gates, with their whole life ahead of them.
I am avant-garde
I am avant-garde, you see. After Ms. Cody presses the button for the opening bell, in the next few minutes, these young human beings will go and sit down in large classrooms wings, they will run and sweat in gyms whose excellence will be described as “the last word of equipment” by the local press. They will learn to swim in individual pools, one for the boys and one for girls. In the two-storey auditorium, they will in the celebrations organised to mark the end of the year. They will not notice my floors in hard maple, but they will talk non-stop about the automatic phone system, which allows any part of my buildings to make and receive calls. Ring, ring! Who’s there? The future’s speaking. Hutchins Intermediate here.
Close your eyes. You can still hear their voices: sweet, high-pitched, unbroken, unstable. Can you also see them? Some are hunched forward onto their school tables, trying to solve that math test. Others have gathered in the vocational wing and they are excited to learn woodworking. Some marvel at electricity classes and gas engine repair. They are unconsciously hungry for life. They yawn during the oral tests. They push each other to see who’s going to get first to the end of this corridor. A rascal scratches a ruler onto the blackboard. Darker clouds are closing in in the sky. He turns around, quickly, and throws a piece of chalk to those sitting in the front rows. Two girls are standing at the top of the stairs. They whisper a secret: “I am in love with Mark”. “So am I”. “That’s great, the more, the merrier”. Laughter. Black spots on their foreheads. Some of them will lead successful and fulfilling lives, you can tell. Others feel incomplete, while they sluggishly kick stone around my garden. They will be alright too, though. Everything will be just fine.