Saturday, July 22, 2017

School is Ratcheting Up and Up and Up - column

Mack Hall, HSG

School is Ratcheting Up and Up and Up

For the next month there is not a newspaper, radio station, or television station in this great land of saints and scholars that will refrain from employing the cringe-making wheeze “School is gearing up.”

No, school is not gearing up. It has never geared up. It will never gear up. Except for maybe Cousin Les’ auto shop class. Let us make our first lesson of the Michaelmas term a caution against using tired metaphors.

There is no adverb less useful than “actually.” After all, one cannot “unactually” do something. And then there is “absolutely,” a useless four-syllable construction meaning “yes.” Say “yes” to clear usage.

The May equivalent of gearing up is that school is winding down. No, it doesn’t. School is not a mechanical watch – which no one under forty has ever seen anyway – and so does not wind down.

“School is just around the corner” – it is if you live around the corner. If you live down the street then school is down the street. If you live in Magnolia Springs school is way off yonder in town.

Back-to-school ads feature adorable little kidlets with big grins modelling the cooler-than-cool new shirts and skirts and jeans and sneaks, and maybe a notebook. The children in school ads never carry, oh, you know, books. Have you ever seen a b-t-s ad in which the kid was carrying a copy of The Brothers Karamazov or The Road to Magdalena or maybe a Jane Austen? Nope, and you won’t see those books in the kid’s house, either; a big ol’ television the size of Rhode Island is the usual home altar and cultural center now. Who needs 2,000 years of Christian scholarship, music, and art when everyone can now lapse into a fuzzy-eyed stasis, the Lot’s-wife-as-a-pillar-of-salt thing, in front of the latest episode of Flip This Dancing House Cooking Show off the Island of Machine Gun Fire and Dead Bodies?

Is there a Texas Education Agency rule that school administrators must shave their heads and grow odd tufts of hair on their chins?

Dress codes and professional demeanor are issues that really annoy principals: slovenly clothes, weird hair, gang signs, flip-flops, tattoos, cartoon tee shirts, tardiness, inappropriate language – and that’s the faculty and parents; the kids tend to do better.

Just a joke, guys, just a joke.

Did you know that algebra is now taught in junior high middle school? That’s wicked. Jesus never said, “Solve for X.”

Did you know that your daughter can learn to weld in high school?

Did you know that your son can venture beyond the microwave and learn real cookery in high school?

Did you know that Julius Caesar and Macbeth are about American politics?

When I was in school, about the time my ol’ dad and the boys got home from the Battle of Hastings, we kids learned about telling time by using construction paper and brads and crayons to construct a clock face on a pie tin. I suppose now children print out a picture of a Fit-Bit and hot-glue it to a take-out pizza box.

But busses are still yellow (and their wheels still go ‘round and ‘round), new pencils (especially cedar, if you can find them) smell like your own childhood, the first day of school is exciting, 6th-grade band concerts are painful to the ear but symphonic to the soul, new clothes are nice, the first look at amoebae through a microscope is to visit a new world, sophomores should fitted tracking devices, seniors pretty much rule the universe, Robert Frost makes more sense than Congress, and voting in a school board election remains a lonely experience.


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