Tuesday, July 7, 2009


When I was asked if I'd finally met my match—in terms of the rigor, quality of work, and level of understanding required—here at brown, I quickly and unthinkingly responded yes. However, thinking back, I realize that it wasn't really a fair match to begin with.

I entered the arena with one hand tied behind my back. In order to begin to compete, I first had to untie my hand. I spent the first week bemoaning my tied hand, almost giving up, and feeling disadvantaged. Finally, I asked the professor for some "scissors" which came in the form of a introductory textbook, and I spent the weekend untying my hands.

The second week, I began to hold my own in the battlefield that is my class. I began answering questions, forming hypothesis, analyzing what I was doing, wondering why I was doing it.

And now during the third week, I'm pulling ahead. I'm answering more questions than most people, I'm thinking about the concepts exactly how the professor wants me to. I'm forming my own procedures, instead of following step by step instructions from the textbook.

What i'm trying to say is, yes, coming from the WCCUSD we are under-prepared. Honestly, this makes me angry. Its not fair that we have to struggle with ancient lab equipment, and outdated textbooks, while the kids from Stuyvesant and Harker have everything brand new, top of the line. Its not fair that the already privileged get more privileges. But that's the way it is. In order to be successful, in order to compete, we need to take every opportunity we can. We NEED to ask the professors for scissors. We NEED to take advantage of every head start, extra time, or second chance available.

And this is what the ILC is all about. The ILC is giving us our head start, its giving us extra chances to prove ourselves, its giving us a chance to learn how to fight for what we deserve.

And for that I am thankful,
Joseph Young


Charles Tillman Ramsey said...

I love the PASSION.

Powerful post. This one says it ALL!!!


Will anyone listen?

I am.

Take care.

Charles T. Ramsey, Esq.
School Board Member
West Contra Costa
Unified School District

Madeline Kronenberg said...


Well said. I appreciate your insight and candor. It isn't fair -- but few things are. And "it is the way it is."

I appreciate your not just defining the problem -- but also finding and acting upon the remedy -- action. And you are right that is what the ILC is all about -- ACTION. And action takes many forms -- from asking more questions, to sending students to the east coast.

"Action" is always the answer -- thanks for describing it so clearly.

Don Gosney said...


I just wanted to mirror what Charles and Madeline wrote about how outstanding your blog was today. You make some very good and valid points.

Some people say (and actually embrace) the old adage: “Life sucks and then you die.”

What I want to see, though, are more people like yourself who see that life sucks but rather than sit back and accept the mess you’ve been dealt you try to break free and improve your lot.

You took that step to ask for those ‘scissors’ to free that hand tied behind your back and you saw that maybe you could do better just by taking advantage of what was right in front of you all along.

I don’t want to suggest that you or any of the others expects things to be handed to them on a silver platter but if you want the good things in life you often have to do what’s necessary to get them.

NOTHING ever just happens, Joseph. SOMEBODY has to make it happen. You could have very easily have just sat on your hands and accepted what had been handed to you or you could, as you did, take responsibility for moving forward and taking the appropriate steps to get yourself to a new place.

And weren’t you just a little surprised when you learned that all you had to do was ask and people were willing to help you? Sometimes that’s all it takes. There are a lot of people, Joseph, who are more than willing to give of their time to assist others.

It seems that I tell people this so frequently that perhaps I need to put it on a business card: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Sam said...

That is a well-written, powerful post, Joseph, and it sounds like you're learning more than just some biology.

Coming from the WCCUSD your preparation, no, doesn't match Stuyvesant (Manhattan's top public high school, competitive admission, science focus, etc.) (although the facilities at the new El Cerrito campus do look pretty terrific).

On the other hand, you (and your classmates) aren't so far off that, after a couple of intense weeks and lots of the right attitude, you can't put yourself back in it. The ILC gives you the chance to prove this to yourself, but doesn't this also mean that the WCC, despite some gaps, is essentially doing what we ask of it, and all while operating in a particularly difficult environment?