Friday, December 4, 2009

"And so I say to you, Commencement is more than blah blah blah..."

I know we've discussed this before, but I have to say once again, attention High School Kids - cheer up! It's going to be all right!

If I drive a certain path to work at just the right times, I see elementary school kids, then middle school kids, and finally, high school kids eddying about at bus stops. Now I do understand that this might not give me an accurate demographic breakdown of scholastic America, because it does not take into account the following groups:

- - kids being driven to school by chauffeurs (very unlikely in our end of town)
- - kids who are cutting school that day to go on impromptu self-guided field trips to Civil War battlegrounds (I can account for my whereabouts that day)
- - kids who drive to school themselves (we had a 16-year-old driver in 7th grade, until he dropped out)
- - kids who walk to school
- - kids who attend home school
- - kids who walk to home school

But anyhow, doggone it, here's my message to the youth of America again. Cheer the hell up! I see you in those knots of youth at the bus stops, and it seems the older the student, the more disconsolate the visage. Your elementary school kids seem as happy as lightning bugs with new batteries. And why not? They're looking forward to a whole day of Chutes and Ladders, cut and paste, and brown and serve. They might have to do some rudimentary arithmetic, but it's pretty easy once you've learned your timeses and guzinthas.

Middle school has more angst per square mile than an Albee play. Whereas, in high school everything SEEMS like a big deal, in middle school it IS a big deal whether Jason punches you or Emma rebuffs your churlish advances or Porter rips off your lunch. (Note for readers of my generation: please substitute the names "Robert," "Jane", and "Stacy" in the preceding.) I love talking to people, and there are few verbal founts as reliable as a middle school student or a middle school teacher when you wish to find out how things are in middle school. Those first couple of years past puberty can be rough, and those going through it need to be regarded with patience and understanding while being allowed to flourish without a lot of overbearing vigilance. And that's why I tell the teenagers to give their teachers a break; it's tough enough being in one's early post-adolescence without having to stand in front of a class of raging hormones and talk about the Pelopennesian War!

And for those who have heard the Big Lie that says, "High school days are the happiest days of your life," well, please bear in mind that this statement was likely generated by people who peaked in high school by being selected to the Audio-visual crew or Lost & Found club. High school days are not the happiest days of your life, and if you'd refrain from paying any attention whatsoever to that ridiculous old saw, you could relax, take a deep breath, and figure the following are indeed true:

a) Someone somewhere will love you and partner up with you if that's what you wish for. (Just don't go messing it up and then have to leave hurried hushed voicemails asking the woman/man with whom you've been carrying on/"transgressing" to take her/his name off her/his phone because your wife/husband went through yours. You might have the appetite of a Tiger, but I don't want to see you lost in the Woods.)

b) Out in the real world, there is no homework, no term papers, book reports or semester projects. We do all this as part of the regular working day so we can be available after work to sell and deliver candy, peanut brittle, wrapping paper, Joe Corbi pizza and raffle tickets.

c) Whether or not you know the dates, names of participants and/or outcome of the Pelopennesian War will ever matter much once you pass this stupid History test next Wednesday. You will be regarded as an office curiosity for even bringing up this 5th-Century Greek conflict, but you'll smile inside when you mention the Diet of Worms
and someone thinks you're talking about bird food.

d) Although, it wouldn't hurt some of you to spend a little time learning the differences between "your" and "you're," "it's" and "its," and "there," "their" and "they're." Yeah, I'm gonna need you to go ahead and learn those grammar basics; that'd be great, yeah.

e) No one in the real world ever solves for "x" and never has. Algebra does not exist.

f) Similarly, no one will ever ask you to figure out what time the train from Chicago will pass the train from Louisville, unless you work for Amtrak, and then you'd have it on a computer which will break down regularly and be fixed by a guy who was in the Audio-Visual club, or you'll misplace it and get it back from the guy who was in the Lost and Found Club.

Circle of Life. Hakuna Matata.

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