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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Back-to-School Special

Here in Chicago, it's the first day of school. Which means that in a few weeks, it'll finally be time to take down the "Back to School" sales and really pitch in with the holiday-themed items. I've already seen tons of displays up for Hallowe'en candy, which you can apparently now purchase far enough in advance to wind up eating the entire collection of "fun-sized" candies and still pick up replacements at a discount. But that's a topic for another day: I'm here to relay some messages to the little ones out there who are starting their first days of the new school year.

For the elementary school children:


We can't all be geniuses who learn to read at age 18 months, but the least you can do is keep at it and become literate - so in time, you'll learn how to spell, how to expand your vocabulary and then you'll be in a position above practically 70% of the population when you're in high school. Of course, knowing how to spell doesn't get put to good use (other than spelling bee trophies) until you learn how to write put your ideas into words. The faster you can pick that up, the better your chances will be of having people take your ideas seriously. As for math, don't be an idiot who has to count things with fingers, and needs to wear open-toed shoes in case they need to go above ten. I'm not saying that you have to take calculus or anything, I'm just saying that all of the good jobs involve degrees that require math - and a lot of the crappier jobs still require you to add and subtract quickly, let alone multiply and divide on a bad day. Trust me, math skills will help you save money in almost every situation if you know how to use it.

For the teachers and parents: in order to have your children learn to read, write and do 'rithmatic, you need to stop babying them! Not everybody is a winner, especially not your kids. They need to learn that someone is always better than them and only one person gets to take home the grand prize. If that's your kid, enjoy the moment while it lasts, because there's always someone at your heels, ready to be the next #1. Teams lose, because one did better than the other. Telling them that "everyone who plays is a winner" plants false ideas in their heads - try implanting good sportsmanship. The best way to do that is by demonstrating it, which means NOT being a jackass parent yelling at an umpire or coach about unfair calls and your precious child not getting enough play time. If you wanted your children to always get to play, you should be playing in a park with them as a family, not as a team.

For the high school children:


You know how your parents and grandparents will tell you boring stories about walking five miles to school, in the snow, both ways, and then using old contraptions like slide rules while hand-writing every piece of work because there were no new-fangled computers back then? LISTEN TO THEM! They didn't have your fancy toys, and they learned enough to get them through life, didn't they? Went to school every day because it's the law, AND they'd get a whoopin' if they were caught playing hookey? Studied real hard so they'd get good grades so they wouldn't get another whoopin'? Graduated high school and either went to college or got a job - something something more whoopin'?

It's called a "hard life" and it builds character! That's not just a catchphrase taught to all parents in a mandatory seminar. (Trust me, while all parents should have a mandatory seminar, this whole "character" notion is something bonus that comes from people who actually did it.) Things that are hard to do are usually the things worth doing. Hand-write an essay and you'll find you're more careful about your wording and making mistakes in the language. Try multiplying or adding something on paper instead of with a calculator every now and then - it's a good refresher and firing up those brain synapses keeps them active and healthy and can actually help ward off Alzheimer's.

As for your toys - leave them at home, where toys belong. Yes, every single human being on the planet now seems to have a cellphone - great for emergency contact and scheduling, but not for school time. Same goes for... just about anything electronic that distracts you from shutting up, paying attention and doing your damned schoolwork! I'm not going to promise you that every course and every lesson throughout high school is crucial to living in the real world - but every course DOES offer knowledge that IS necessary to being a well-rounded individual and the potential to not shame your family's name at some point in your life. You know all those studies that say Americans can't locate (insert country) on a map? Maybe if they'd paid more attention in Geography class, they wouldn't be screwing up and making our country the laughingstock in the education department that it currently is!

For the college-bound young adults:


I'm currently more a believer in the idea that college really doesn't do much for you in the real world. And no, college is NOT the real world. It's just a lazy version of high school because parents are no longer part of the equation. They're not pushing you out of bed so you'll get to school/class on time. They're not checking up on your grades with report cards and parent-teacher conferences. They're just an ATM for when beer money supplies are low. This is the point that most college students pass through for some duration of their journey through college. Also the point where I'd yell at them to GET A JOB.

I also hear these tales about how college graduates make $500,000 more in a lifetime, or make double what a non-college graduate makes. What they DON'T mention is the insane amount of loans it generally takes to get through the four years of college for a standard degree. These loans build up, become huge, and even after consolidation - they're huge and you have to pay them with interest. The debt is staggering, and it can seriously ruin your credit rating. What good is an extra 50% salary if all the things you want to buy are off-limits due to bad credit?

You know, not everyone gets into college, either. There's currently an issue in Colorado over the fact that graduation requirements for high schools aren't high enough to match entrance requirements for colleges. So rather than make high school students learn more, or accept the fact that some of 'em aren't good enough or ready for college - they're dropping/lowering the admissions standards to get into college. That's just sick in my book. We're dumbing down so much in American schools, why bother having standards at all? Let's just throw some books at children, expect them to read them, realize they probably won't, then take a nap and wait for the next school year? College is for people who are smart enough and driven enough to warrant getting in. If you're not one of those people, you don't belong in college. Yea, even if you DID get in. Quit wasting everyone's time and just get a job.

Then there's the groups of people who try to convince you that without a degree, you'll never climb that ladder or gain entry to the job positions and types of "work you'll enjoy doing." I say that there are plenty of positions open where the work is something you can enjoy doing. Unfortunately, jobs aren't just about the work, they're about the company/business and co-workers and other employees and bosses that make a job a JOB. If I didn't have bosses yelling at me and deadlines that are unfeasible and co-workers who are a few rocks short of a box, I'd absolutely love the work I'm doing. I enjoy data analysis and reporting. I also enjoy my side-gig of writing articles like these. What it all comes down to is that you can always pick your career - picking everything else isn't up to you, it's all a crap shoot and work was never really meant to be fun.

If work were meant to be fun, they wouldn't have to pay you to get you to do it.

That's all for this segment of my Back-to-School Special. There will undoubtedly be a Part Two.

(The Colorado college stuff)

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