One of the really interesting things about cleaning up the rest of the other house, to move, is that we’re hitting exactly the sort of things we’d even forgotten had happened/existed.
For instance, we opened a box last packed away in 1990, when we moved from our very first house together. It would have been exciting if it hadn’t been packed by movers, who don’t seem to have the ability to distinguish between trash and office stuff. So, we had Dan’s business cards hoard, now with a lot of names and addresses either no longer in the business or no longer at that address/number; we had some sketch pads with funny drawings which back then was his way of dragging me away from writing. You know exactly what. We were 27. There were pictures of cartoon guys with googly eyes and “here’s looking at you kid,” etc. There were also sheets of paper that from their crumpled look the movers rescued from the trash can. You know what I meant. Crumple marks on an old shopping list.
There is a certain factor of “Wow, really” to this, at least when you realize not only have you any idea what the party was you were hosting, but also when the number of apples and cucumbers required must have meant some sort of salad I no longer remember making or having a recipe for.
It is a reminder of both the permanence of who you are and the transience of many things that seem incredibly important at the time.
Take those business cards. If we’d found them 15 years ago, we’d never have shrugged and shaken the whole mess into the trash bag. We wouldn’t have done it because, even though we probably would never have contacted any of those people anyway (note we never felt the need to ransack the house for still-unopened boxes) we’d have had the feeling that it might “be important.”
Weirder still is finding evidences of me in that creature I don’t remember. Like endless miles of rejections, that mean I must have submitted a lot of stories, but I can’t remember any of those titles, and the stories I DO remember I’d rather I didn’t. (There’s miles and miles — and MILES — of twerpitude on the way to becoming who we are as the late Pterry (pbuh) said. What he didn’t say is that who we are is marginally less twerpy and our future selves, still a little less twerpy, will laugh at us.)
But then there are other surprise discoveries that have more meaning for both our society and us.
We found Robert’s grade reports from sixth grade, for instance. And I blinked at the grades.
For background, both our kids are brilliant, which in this case is defined as “sharper than old mom” or to quote PTerry (pbuh) again “So sharp they cut themselves.” This means they have a ton of idiosyncrasies and that if I’d known what was really going on in elementary/middle school, AND if I’d known I could homeschool (listen bud, I was afraid of missing something essential. My formation has HOLES) I’d have taken them out in a New York minute, or even a Colorado one.
But one of their idiosyncrasies is that, being very similar, they like to play opposites. What I mean is, though their basic makeup is close to the same and though they are (like my brother and me) when not in contact likely to be reading the same book at the same time, or playing the same game for the same reason, when they are together they view it as their sworn duty to not be alike. So, since older son was a straight A student (or close enough) who gave himself an ulcer in high school worrying about grades, younger son studies for what interests him and lets the rest go hang, which makes him an A/D student or an A/F student on rare occasions. (Mind you almost everything in college at least interests him minimally, so last time I looked he maintained a B average, but he gave me white hairs getting him through K-12.)
So as I looked at the report card I thought “Marshall” but the name was Robert, and I thought “Robert never had an F in math” and “This must be a strange mistake.”
But I remembered, vaguely, being very worried about Robert all through sixth grade, until we moved and changed schools and put him in an advanced program which was not that great in retrospect but which, at least, graded him on what he’d learned and his homework and tests.
Because you see my husband found the sheet explaining that grade. I.e. the sheet with the checks and points for various things during the semester.
I’m fairly sure I never saw that sheet, though I can’t swear. It might have been at the back of our desire to move which was so intense we picked a house totally unsuited to us by the method of “it’s in another district” and “We can afford it.” (There were other reasons, like that someone in the neighborhood was killing cats, and we didn’t know who.) Also, this was the year coming off Dan being unemployed and while he still was suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea, which meant I was suffering from undiagnosed being kept awake (more than health issues were already doing) by apneaing husband, so heaven knows what I saw or what I made of it. The entire year is a fog. Which is good as it kept the berserker from descending on the school to create the sort of scene where the police say “the bodies haven’t been found yet.”
Because that check list leading to an F in math read as follows: Items, three, tests, with perfect scores. Item, “bring in x boxes of kleenex” with zero. Item, bring in three lightbulbs, with zero. Item bring in folders of appropriate size and 24 highlighter markers, zero. Item inspection of locker showing it messy, zero. Item, failed to organize his notes and use the appropriate colors to take them, zero. Etc. etc.
Now younger son often managed to have cs in classes where he aced the tests due to an allergy to homework. As the woman who grew from the kid who wrote her homework in the two seconds before class, whose stories of how her homework had disappeared (it was aliens. A UFO, I swear. They paralyzed me with their rays and took my long division homework) became preparation for her current career and who, up to her Junior year in college, was known to read essays from a blank sheet, I couldn’t really come down like a ton of bricks on THAT.
But this wasn’t even homework. It seemed a deranged combination of trying to stock up the school (okay, it’s a small village and I imagine they have trouble, but still, giving grades for it, and for that matter asking the kids for it isn’t cool) and trying to enforce blind compliance.
There were mitigating circumstances, too, that adults could have told the teacher about, but Robert couldn’t or wouldn’t. First of all BOTH our kids have a marked aversion to spending our money. Not their own, that they’ve earned, but ours. And back then the money was all ours, or at least Robert couldn’t drive to the store and buy Kleenex from the money he’d earned helping my friends with gardening projects. And we were broke. Dead, flat broke, as we’ve only come close to being since. Dan had lost his job in the middle of a tech flight from town, and we were scrambling and not sure when he’d find work again. Now we didn’t discuss this with the kid, but kids know. So he never even mentioned the shopping list to us, much less take the stuff in. And btw, since this was the ONLY time (and only because we REALLY were at the end of our rope) our kids have been on free-lunch program (Yes, I know I disapprove of those, but you know what? Part of the reason we were in the pinch we were in was the massive amount taken from Dan’s severance check. So it’s not like we weren’t paying into the maw of the government, not-by-choice. And it’s not like if we hadn’t used it it would have been returned to the tax payer. It would have been spent in ever more creative ways. It was, in fact, as the school (the shopping list notwithstanding) had a surplusage they spent on showy but useless equipment. And when the school more or less forced us into it, we thought that if we didn’t have money to eat, we wanted to make sure the kids did) the teacher could/should easily have known that and SHOULD have understood not only that we couldn’t afford a lot of those items to stock her in-class cupboard, but that it was insensitive and crass to ask the kids to bring this stuff in with no regard for parental circumstances at the time. (And these are the people who preach sensitivity.) I’m going to guess if Robert had abased himself before the class and told them we were broke she’d have excused him. Only, of course, he’d rather take the F and I can’t blame him, since I remember Middle School vividly.
Then there was the blind compliance of “dot this with this particular color” and “take notes in the approved manner.”
When we showed the list to Robert he said “I was near suicidal that year. Because my mind doesn’t work like other kids’ I guess. I just couldn’t see where that stuff mattered. I mean, in college whether you take notes or rely on aural memory no one cares, as long as you KNOW the material, but it seemed in sixth grade knowing the material counted for nothing, and it was all how well I did these pointless tasks.”
This probably wouldn’t disturb me as much if I hadn’t gone through this, in spades, with younger son four years later and if school administrators hadn’t told me that the purpose of middle school is not to teach the kids anything so much as is teaching them “the process.” And the process as described by these bright souls seems to consist of “Ve hav ways und means to make you OBEY.” Seriously, with younger son, too the emphasis was on “You will dot all the is and cross all the ts in the color designated!”
Perhaps it’s just my kids (heaven knows where they picked it up, but they have slight problems with arbitrary, shouty authority) or maybe it is why all our friends’ BOYS (not the girls, not even in cases where we saw no difference in IQ between the kids) hit the wall in middle school and started lagging behind their sisters. Girls (present typist and a lot of readers very much excepted) tend to be more compliant with group mores and authority.
This girl, of course, faced with that course of “study” would not only also have had Fs but would probably have thrown shoes at the teacher’s head and got expelled. Fortunately her kids turned out calmer.
Anyway, the whole idea that middle-school is supposed to enforce blind compliance and that’s what they’re actually grading on (or was when my kids were involved) makes my gorge rise. It might be a very good way to raise machine-operators, but it sucks when raising free-thinking citizens in whom (we the people) the power and the legitimacy of the state is supposed to rest.
If I had my time again those kids would never have seen the inside of a classroom till I put them in the dual high school/college program Marshall attended, in 10th and 11th grade. (And for those in the area, Coronado Highschool. Yes, they’re a magnet school and take kids even from out of district, though it’s a little harder. And unless it’s changed all out of recognition in the last 3 years, highly recommended.) Because colleges still prefer standard high school grades to portfolios.
But it’s past, and it’s past by a long time, and it was just a memory of gritting my teeth and a surge of annoyance at the items on that check list.
However, those of you with kids in school — check what they’re actually being graded on. Then ask yourself if that’s why you sent them to school and if that’s the formation you want them to have. Then see if there’s anything you can do, including but not limited to “teaching them at home after school.”
And cut our fellow citizens some slack. They are the product of this system. They’ll need to go through conditioning as well as twerpitude before they come out on the other side as free men and women.
And yet, I have faith a number of them will. Reality tends to beat this sort of programing.
Just don’t pile on with the school and assume the teachers are always right. This is not the school you went through (or at least I hope not.) And what your kids are failing on might be things that would hurt them in life and work should they learn them.
There will be book pimpage later. I’m on the home stage on the cursed book, so I’ll be doing that, now. Talk quietly amongst yourselves while I kill a gross characters or so.