Jerome Rabow has contributed significant research to the fields of social psychology and education. This memoir, however, is very different from his academic work, and is aimed at people who wish to enhance their lives and for people who feel stuck. It is not a conventional "how to" book, but rather a"how you can" book: how you can learn from your failures, improve your family relationships, your relationships with your intimates, and deepen your relationship to your self. It is for the elderly who may not realize there can be a good life ahead. It is for professors who want to change how they teach or how they respond to their students. It is for those who dwell on their failures and cannot look afresh and unearth new possibilities.
This book may help you understand that poverty is not just a matter of money but can be something deeply psychological. This book may help you appreciate the value of persistence, help you recognize the ways your childhood experiences provide you with a template of how to be. This template paints how your adult experiences will be viewed, evaluated, and colored: blue, gray, black, or yellow. If you wear rose-colored glasses, this book may help you face your truths and see more clearly what is possible beyond the lens you are familiar with.
1951-1955 - Avenue H/Bedford Ave. , Brooklyn, NY
I set out for college with only a vague sense of what that might mean. One thing I did know was that I would be saving money by living at home. Moving out and living in an apartment never occurred to me. If anyone had mentioned that idea, I would have thought it was stupid. Why would anyone in a family want to pay two rents? Besides, there were no dormitories at Brooklyn College. It was a commuter school serving working class students whose families could not or did not want to send their children away to college. The tuition was, as I recall, five dollars a semester.
I took the BMT subway and got off at Avenue H, then walked the twenty minutes to campus. Every school day I carried two peanut butter sandwiches on wheat bread and two apples in a brown paper bag. As I write this I laugh, thinking what four years of peanut butter would look like if it were scooped from my sandwiches and put into a pile in the middle of a street. I can see the light brown color. The chunkiness in the hill is sticking out and I imagine it to be six feet tall. Could cars get around it? Would drivers survive a crash? I imagined the headline in the New York Daily News: DRIVER KILLED BY PEANUT BUTTER.Because I had decided to be a pre-med student, I was instructed to take preselected classes. My very first class at Brooklyn College was a chemistry class that started at 8:00 a.m. I was shocked at the hugeness of the classroom. There were 300 students. It was like a theatre with a wild, constantly moving madman, Professor Cheronis, smiling, shouting and laughing at his own jokes while he pulled his long mustache. I admired his interweaving of chemistry into our everyday lives. In his lab I was introduced to the microscope. When I looked through the lens, I could not see what others were seeing. At first I thought it was because I wore glasses and my lenses and the lenses of the microscope made the images cloudy. But others with glasses were nodding and excited. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone about what they saw. No matter how hard I looked, I saw nothing that they were describing. I didn't know what ions would join others to make a compound. I have no idea why I didn't fail that class. I ended up with a C. I guess there were others who were having the same or different problems. The C meant that I would probably have to change my major. Becoming a doctor was a fading goal.
Jerome Rabow has been a professor of social psychology for thirty years at UCLA and lectures at California State University Northridge (CSUN). He has written nine books and over one hundred articles on sociology, social psychology, education, and racism. He is cofounder and president of the Center for the Celebration of Diversity through Education. Married to Roslyn Rabow, he lives in Los Angeles and has five children and four grandchildren.