So, our youngest headed back to school this week. He had grown bored of hanging out with friends, playing X-Box, and eating beef sticks. He was elated to return to the rigors of academia and the discipline of scholarship. And I've got some beachfront property near Cobden for you to take a look at.
I went to school once. When summer days grow shorter, I still get the urge to grab my pencil pouch, fill it with #2 lead pencils and my pink Paper Mate eraser, down a Tang, and head to school. I actually attended the same school that my son does. All together now, the St. Mary's school song, "We're going to fight, fight, fight for green and white. We're going to jump and yell and cheer!" Hey, I saw that face you Cathedral fans made.
I was at St. Mary's in the midst of the Baby Boom and we had about three times as many students as they do now. As I figure it, we each had about one square foot of space to function in back then. Things like oxygen were more appreciated. Thankfully Personal Space had not been invented yet, and we were more than happy to move an elbow now and then.
Today, we are told information is doubling every two years. If that is so, and you extrapolate backwards, it would appear there wasn't that much to know when I was a kid. We probably could have knocked off after about fifth or sixth grade. But they made us go 12 years anyway. Since there was nothing left to learn, we spent the final years taking classes like "Current Events" and "Signs and Symbols." Current Events involved sitting around, reading a newspaper. It is a skill I mastered and use even today. I looked into becoming a Signs and Symbols major in college, but no such luck.
To date myself, there were inkwells in the wood desks when I was in school. By then, the inkwells were only a gathering place for lint and dead bugs. In the old days, there were stories of mischievous boys dipping girls' pigtails into the inkwell. I could understand that. I never knew what to do with Big Hair when a girl was sitting in front of me. How could any self-respecting male youth NOT want to do something to that? I often resisted the urge to pull it.
There wasn't much other contact with girls back then. It wasn't so much that they were from Venus and we were from Mars; it was more like they were a different species. The ducks and chickens on our farm really don't have much to do with each other.
The girls were all smarter than us and the teachers liked them. I was too shy to talk to them, and besides what was there to talk about? Occasionally one of the cool boys would cross the divide and actually talk to a girl. Those that survived came back and reported to the rest of us. I still don't talk to girls. Well, except my wife. When she asks a question.
Now schools have bully prevention programs. When I was in school, bullies were part of the natural order. It's like when you have a bunch of roosters; in a short time, a clear pecking order is established. (Did you ever notice how often I use poultry metaphors?) I knew there were certain boys who could beat me up. Self Esteem hadn't been invented yet, so I didn't dwell on it. I remember someone suggested that we institute a bully prevention program. They got beat up.
The only thing those of us lower on the pubescent food chain had going for us was the belief that life would even things out down the road. Now, I live back in my hometown, and I can see what happened to all the bullies. They all married beautiful women, got wonderful jobs, and live in big houses. Meanwhile, some of us picked-on kids got newspaper columns. Oh, goody.
A great chasm divided the cool kids and the great unwashed massed back then. It was easy to separate us by one simple distinction. The cool kids watched The Monkees and the dweebs watched Lost in Space. They were on at the same time, so you had to cast your lot with one or the other. I was much too worried about the dangers Will Robinson faced. Years later, I went to see the Monkees at the Gibbon Ballroom. Alas, by then all the cool kids were at a Def Leppard concert.
Computers were just coming into education when I was in school. These were the prehistoric ancestors of today's computers. We spent half the year writing a program to simulate a dice roll. All the while, I wondered what was wrong with using a dice. Nowadays there's an app for that.
We spent the second half of the school year trying to write a program to add two numbers. Back then we also spent some time working with abacuses. It seemed to me that the abacus was a whole lot quicker than the computer. A few years later, I had to choose between investing in a little start-up company called Micro-something-or-other or in International Amalgamated Abacuses, I put it all in abacuses.
Sex was also just coming into education back then. In seventh grade, we boys were taken to the gym to watch a 30-minute movie about, well, you know what. That same year we got to watch a 30-minute movie about brushing your teeth. Let's be honest. Which skill are you going to use more in your life? As for sex, I think we were supposed to figure it out on our own. And by my late thirties, I sort of did, although I still have lots of unanswered questions.