Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to School (Weeping Sounds) (From Kids, That Is)

I know, I know.

Many of you who have children saw them go back to school eons ago, or at least last week. All I can say is that this is early for us, what with Labor Day so late. Plus, no striking teachers this year...

In any case, let's celebrate with our favorite school books. If you could go to any school in literature, which would it be? Is there anyone who wouldn't choose Hogwarts? Which school would children a generation ago have chosen? Growing up, I certainly wished I went to Betsy Ray's Deep Valley High School, if only to hang out with her fun friends and take Joe on every spring in the Essay Contest.

Maybe because hardship makes for exciting stories, there seem to be many more schools in literature where you would NOT want to enroll. I'm thinking of Lowood in JANE EYRE or Wackford Squeers' dreadful establishment in NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. (Note to parents: in Dickens, names are always clues. Don't enroll your child at a place where the headmaster is named "Wackford.") Or consider Almanzo Wilder's one-room schoolhouse in Malone, New York, where the previous schoolmaster was beaten up by the big kids and later died! Or Francie Nolan's struggles in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, until she discovered that beautiful school in a different neighborhood. Francie was the original open-enroller.

Is it my imagination, or is school less thrilling in reality? I suppose life is always less thrilling than books (or else the book you're reading isn't worth your time), but it seems like school is even more bland. There's so much curriculum to get through nowadays that there's less time for mischief (Amy March and her pickled limes!). Even bullies have been dumbed down (remember "Scut Farkus" in A CHRISTMAS STORY?)--today's Thought for the Day at my kids' school was about Controlling Your Emotions and Thinking before You Speak. Good luck with that.

My own Thought for the Day for my kids? "Stay away from anyone who's scratching their head too much." Never mind thoughtfulness--let's just shoot for no lice.

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