“Well, I went to infants school.
I could remember I used to sleep in the class.” (1)
Isaac Gordon’s memoir is mostly based around his education and schooling, dedicating a whole chapter at the beginning to discuss it. More specifically, Isaac uses the chapter ‘School’ as his opening chapter. This suggests that it was a key point in his life and his lack of education described in this chapter sets the tone for his struggles through the rest of his memoir. I will focus two posts on Isaac’s education and schooling due to it being a key factor in shaping his life and memories addressed in his memoir.
To give an outline of Isaac’s experience at school, he did not like it from a very young age, when he was at infants’ school. He would skip school from the very beginning, as he said, “I just feel I didn’t learn anything.” (1). this highlights Isaac’s anxious attitude and his lack of self-esteem. He began lying to his parents as he would “cry and hide from school.” every day, instead of going to school he would “just play around on the common.” (1). One of Isaac’s friends from school told his step mother that he was not attending and as his Father worked early in the morning until late at night on the farm, he did not know what was going on with Isaac until “his wife told him.” (2). After this, his Farther made Isaac go to work on the farm with him, though he said that Isaac would regret it in later life as he is “going to need that read and write.” (2). Isaac knew at this point that he should have been at school and not at work with his Father, but he felt too embarrassed to go back now.
Through my in depth research, I have found a school inspection report for Bethany primary school, which is the primary school that Isaac was sent to before he left indefinitely. In this report, it says that the students going to the school “are from farming communities surrounding the school.” and “Most are from a low socio-economic background as unemployment is high” (2012, 3). This is Isaac’s exact background so it makes us wonder why he felt so uncomfortable at school. It could have been due to the class sizes being large with a pupil-teacher ratio of 27:1 (2012, 3), as Isaac did say, “others put their hand up, and I couldn’t put mine up.” (1).
As stated earlier in this post, Isaac found challenges in his everyday life due to his lack of education and schooling. In chapter six when Isaac travels to England from Jamaica, he tells us of the struggles that he faced when he had to fill out a form for his entry into the country. He could not “do the read and write,” so he had to “pay £85 fare.” for somebody else to complete the form for him (19). To Isaac that would have been a lot of money due to his constant difficulty to find a job with regular hours. If he would have stayed in school long enough to be able to read and write, then many of these challenges he is facing may not have happened. However, if Isaac did stay in school then we may not have had the pleasure of reading his memoir today.
Gordon, Isaac. ‘Going Where the Work is’. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 2:327.
National Education Inspectorate. ‘Bethany Primary School Inspection Report’. Report Issued: February 9th, 2012. https://jis.gov.jm/estp/docs/Financial%20Inspection%20Reports/Region%203/Bethany%20Primary%20School%20Final%20Inspection%20Report.pdf