“I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did” – Yogi Berra

Guess what time it is, boys and girls? It’s time to get ready to go back to school! The Idler has something to say to you young scholars who are facing another nine month stretch in the big house: “HAH-hah!”


If you don’t believe that doomsday is drawing nigh, stop by Walmart and Target where they have all the notebooks and markers and three-ring binders on display right up in the front of the store. The parents are all checking off items on their school supply list – “That’s a two-pocket folder; where are the four-pocket folders?” – while the kids seem torn. The younger ones don’t really know what’s going on but the older ones have an uneasy sense that it’s not good. The endless Summer won’t be. The lazy, hazy, crazy days are drawing to a close. It’s back to pencils and books and teacher’s dirty looks. Why can’t we go to the toy section? Mom, don’t we need beach towels?

That’s just the demand end of the educational transaction. On the supply side, the teachers now have to turn their estates over to the servants to maintain, close down the Nantucket summer home and arrange to board the polo ponies. Ha-ha! Just kidding, educational professionals, but we can’t help noticing how far the compensation pendulum has swung in just our lifetime. We remember when teachers got summer jobs in the mill or with roofing and painting contractors. It’s a good thing they don’t have to do that anymore because it gives them the opportunity to  brush up on the latest advances in large-cap mutual funds, er, I mean educational strategies. Also, we are delighted to pay escalating school taxes to support the education establishment, aren’t we, fellow taxpayers? . . . hello? . . . anyone out there?

Perhaps we should discuss educational achievement. I’m sure we’re all tired of hearing about those studies and surveys that purport to show how students in other countries kick our butts at subjects like geography, especially the ones up North on the Pacific rim of, uh, you know, Iceland and Upper Volta. And what about mathematics? While kids in China are solving quadratic equations in Mandarin, ours are working cash registers at McDonald’s where the numbers on the  keys have been replaced by pictures of hamburgers. It’s no wonder 75% of our students are deficient in math and the other half are barely passing. As one of those old-timey guys wearing a powdered wig once said, those who will not learn history are doomed to repeat it in Summer school. The trouble with these standardized tests is that they do not measure the student’s ability to handle real world situations. Let’s take the following problem: If Johnny has five apples and Susie has three apples, what should happen to make the situation fair for both? Smart Alec kids from Korea or somewhere will answer that Johnny should give one apple to Susie whereas the real answer is that Susie should lawyer up and file suit for gender discrimination and also picket the principal’s office until a system of apple set-asides is instituted and administered by the Justice Department’s Fruit and Produce Fairness division.

Comments – DickVerbo@hotmail.com

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