October 09, 2002

Scratching the Blackboard

I’m going to apologize upfront if this column isn’t on par with my back catalog. This was going to be a great column on education. According to, well, everyone, our school systems are in deeper doo-doo than the economy’s personal crapper. Surely, this would be one killer column, ending the hot debate on educational solutions once and for all.

Alas, I have too much homework.

Lately I’ve been up so many nights that even my dreams center around seductively beckoning beds wanting me to sleep with them. Oh, how I pine for the carefree days of this past summer! On second thought, I was enrolled this summer too, doing my internship. What was my point again?

I would have one, except that 20-page papers, communications group projects and legal briefs don’t leave me with much time to have a point. This week’s column is printed proof that balancing academics and work often means something has to suffer.

This balancing act is like an obstacle course: daunting, but easy if you know your way around. In any case, we’re on our own; none of us will get sympathy from our elders:

“Back in my day, what you call college was what we called eighth grade! And we were lucky to get to eighth grade without getting drafted or having to work 21 hours a day on the dirt farm. But we didn’t complain! We respected our elders and never spoke unless spoken to, which often meant we never talked for days! Kids today have no direction; you all suck. You’re destined for doom! And bread used to cost 35 cents a loaf!”

If education was so much harder back then, how come it seems so difficult now? What’s missing now, critics say, is emphasis on the “three Rs.” Even as a kid, though, I had to wonder why kids were taught those when ONLY ONE OF THEM ACTUALLY STARTED WITH AN R!! Maybe that’s where we went wrong!

Being a college student with a 12-year-old sister, I can vouch for the fact that college seniors and 7th-graders alike are still being taught much more than how to spell “’rithmetic.”

This point is driven home every time the little rascal barges into my quiet time (6:23:34 to 6:23:36 p.m. daily), asking me to check her math or French homework. Seventh-grade work was bad enough the first time! Mastering that stuff might explain why my sister is already smarter than I am. Not only that, but she still makes plenty of time for SpongeBob. What a genius, that girl.

Maybe if I had been lucky enough as a child to wear a preppy uniform, to concentrate solely on studying for the annual standardized test or to receive a voucher to STM or Teurlings, I wouldn’t be in this predicament. With uniforms in public schools having magically solved every conflict, though, hope lives on that Generation Z will fare better.

My friends from the aforementioned schools currently face the same issues as us public-school punks, so maybe the problem goes deeper than image. The problems run far beyond standardized-test scores and accountability.

Want to learn the true meaning of accountability? Visit the Vermilion office when I try to justify this piece of work to the editors. They’ll hold me accountable, and I’ll offer the defense that I had a major paper due in political science.

Likewise, when that political science paper returns to me with a grade resembling a deep musical note, I will simply tell the professor that I had to devote time to my column. Now THAT is textbook accountability!

The above example illustrates what I have learned most from 18-plus years of school; in addition to the lessons in managing time, money and social affairs, I have also learned how to be a con artist. If this column makes print, then I will have passed that subject.

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