With the Rector’s threat of expulsion from the National Institute this was just another notch on my list to add to my hard time for that year. The thought that I would not fit in remained with me constantly and my stay at the famous National Institute became a quiet hell instead of the joy I had originally hoped for. The rest of that year was spent in activities that didn’t enhance me in any way either culturally or academically.
Although Professor Ramos’ art class decidedly prevented me from quitting the National Institute all together, what I now saw as the school’s “philosophy” convinced me that we were being molded based upon a myth, an illusion of what the Panamanian man’s character should be.
It was plainly evident from my actual experiences that our moral education was being shaped from anything but patterns of virtue. Things like honor, honesty, valor, ethics and integrity were not really being fostered in this important stage of our social formation. Following the massive First Communion ceremony, the rest of my time spent in this celebrated institution of learning was dedicated to learning on my own initiative. It became a daily and hum drum routine of just showing up for school to simply mark time until graduation.
The only element of pride that I was able to salvage was in being singled out back home in the Barrio neighborhood where I lived as someone who had chosen to be different and attend The National Institute rather than the more popular Arte y Oficio Secondary School which was the choice for most youngsters in the neighborhood. Secretly, I was beginning to regret my decision to become a lawyer or a writer rather than just learning a trade.
My experiences thus far had had led me to believe that we who had such high expectations were really not encouraged to foster that personality and character that the school was supposed to stand for. In fact, about the only place where I found the mention of anything like “principles” was in the lyrics to the school song. Qualities like idealism and patriotism were not at all in my line up of experiences. Apart from that, “principles” were a rare ingredient in our education.
Ever since my crushing experience with the Rector’s racist threat I finally started to have the time and opportunity to really evaluate the young people that surrounded me in school. I began, however, missing my old Pedro J. Sosa Primary school friends since back in grade school your friends were real “friends.”
By then in the Institute my “friends” in that room had become mere acquaintances. I thought to myself, “There they are, all acting as though they had seen nothing at all.” By then my expectations were at such low ebb that I tried to ignore even the small group of boys who finally did offer some show of support.
This story continues.