Even now, the thought of blackboard erasers and lukewarm milk in those little toddler-sized cartons tends to disquiet the usually cheerful Whitten soul.
I can’t help it.
Some people are born cheetahs, some are born antelopes. I’m a penguin. But never mind that.
To me there was and remains something sort of scary about education. It’s that bit about being required to hunker down at a desk for weeks and months and years on end, compelled by law to absorb math and science and history and something called language arts.
It gives me the willies, school. How’d that great Pink Floyd song go? “We don’t need no education….”
And what about that book, “Everything I Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten?”
Not whatever’s in the book itself, mind you, because there are probably radical ideas in there such as being nice to those who don’t have as much stuff as you do, and putting toys up when you’re done playing with them. I’m all for that.
But if we are taught everything we need to know in kindergarten, why a first grade? And then 11 more? One shudders to think what they’re putting over on us. And it could be worse, you kids.
That’s why I’m offering up my first or third annual “first day of school pep talk,” and I won’t bore you with some blather about how half the kids in the world wish they had your opportunity to get an education, even though it’s likely true.
Nope. I’m going to write it like it is.
If you think you have it bad, and you do, try being some poor middle-aged history teacher with 14 online degrees, a mortgage and $200,000 in student loans to pay back. Imagine the poor guy forever trying to explain the Defenestration of Prague to a room full of Fortnightaddicted teens who probably blow more allowance in a week than he’ll make in a month. And do they thank him for it?
Not likely. They instead talk about his butt being lumpy, because that’s what teens do. But that’s only if he’s lucky enough to still have a butt after all those years teaching it off.
I’m told it happens. One day you’restrolling around the teachers lounge in possession of a reasonably normal if somewhat lumpy backside, the next your pants won’t stay up without suspenders.
It apparently just slides off, or evaporates, or gets beamed up somewhere to be dined on by fussy helicopter parents at a booster club meeting. In reality, who knows where it goes. It’s one of the mysteries of the universe.
But it happens, I hear, and I’m told that’s why some administrators wear suits. To hide their suspenders.
Meanwhile, in the real U.S., nobody cares if you know how far participles are dangling, or what the cosine of Arkansas is or when The Rock won World War 11.
Sure, adults say they care. That means they’re either nuts, in education, or they’re related to you, or all three, so they have a vested interest in keeping this thing going.
The rest of us grownups really don’t give your education much thought, sorry. We’re too busy surviving ourselves.
That’s not to say we want you to run amok making things up as you go along. Not at our age. Not when we’re property owners.
Far from it. We want you in school, where somebody can see you.
School is what it is because society wants you to stay in line and behave, and not go golf-carting around your subdivision at night, lighting bags of Pomeranian poop on front porches and then ringing doorbells. That’s a gateway crime if ever there was one. Besides, once you turn 30, that sort of behavior gets kind of old.
And that is why we pay a lot in school taxes. It’s why they make you divide fractions until you get spots.
Education makes you think, and thinking makes you sort of human. Otherwise, our society would eventually become “Lord of the Flies.”
That means instead of corporations, we’d be ruled by a cabal of shirtless 50-year-old skateboarders in dirty diapers and hairy bulging bellies. They’d vote by throwing bones at a fire and then go sacrifice the nearest Rotarian.
So yes, you have to go to school, to save America as we know it from ruin.
I know it’s not fair, but you’re hardly the first poor kid to be tossed into the jaws of the U.S. education morass.
We all in our respective day were sentenced for being young. That is still illegal in all 50 states and apparently getting more illegal every day.
After all, look at how some experts think children should go to school year round, as if being required by law to stay in school for at least 180 days a year for 12 years isn’t enough. I bet armed carjackers get off lighter.
Admittedly, nowadays there are loopholes such as home schooling. It’s kind of like a suspended sentence.
And we seemingly are always being pushed to fund charter schools, which seems similar to what happens when a state privatizes the back end of the justice system and still makes taxpayers pay for it.
Another loophole: if you’re smarter than your teachers, you can escape early and go at an early age to a halfway house — more popularly known as college or a university.
Look at it like this.
If middle school is run like a maximum security prison, college or a university is a Club Fed where the inmates pretty much run the show as long as the tuition gets paid.
And then, if you still can’t function in the world, you can voluntarily add on however many additional years you can get away with, through chasing advanced degrees or frequently changing majors.
Or, you can accomplish the same thing by joining the wrong frat or sorority, which is education lingo for prison gangs. See the movie “Animal House” for more on that.
And finally, if after all that education, you graduate college and still find that life on the outside in the free world is not for you, well, become a recidivist. Turn teacher. And even then, it could be worse.
You could be in newspapers.