Monday, September 2, 2013


Here it is, the first Monday in September of yet another year. Tomorrow everyone goes back to work and/or school. Labor Day is meant to be an appreciation of the American working man, and that's pretty much how we're treated. "Yeah, we appreciate youse. Now get the hell back to work and fork up yer taxes".
(NOTE: We are aware that some folks will find the term "working MAN" to be "sexist".  GFY.)
This is traditionally "the last day of summer", even though summer still has over half a month to run. But by "summer" we here in the USA traditionally mean a relatively carefree season of rest and relaxation. "Summer" in this sense meant, when I was a lad, that period of time between the Friday after Memorial Day and this day.
Sadly, today kids wind up staying in classes until the middle of June, and many go back to school in the middle of August; and there are many jurisdictions and individual schools which hold class year-round. The reason cited for this is that kids "forget 40 percent of what they learn" when given 3 months of relative freedom.

This is baloney. What kids call "play" is increasingly as one grows older "creative application" of what was learned during the school year.  For instance, there was a day in July - I believe it was 1968 - when some pals of mine and I had ridden bikes to a swimming hole where we got the shit bitten out of us by the bluegills. We found an old bucket and decided it would be fun to dump water on unsuspecting cars passing under an overpass. But naturally, we couldn't dump the water on the side where the car was approaching, because the driver would see us and be able to avoid being doused.

(Note: we were at least responsible enough to ensure that any car we dumped on was not traveling alongside anyone else, nor had any other vehicles behind or in front for a good, long distance. We called that "being careful".)

After about ten misses, I got exaspirated and decided to work out a "firing solution", using the lessons I had learned in algebra and geometry, based on how long it took a water dump to hit the pavement and how long it took a car sighted from a certain angle to come out from under the far side of the overpass. I actually made calculations on paper.

Basically I figured out that if it took a car x seconds to pass between points A and B, it would come out at the far side of the overpass at y seconds. I discovered that counting the seconds between these points would yield the number of seconds it would take for car and water-dump to encounter each other.

I guess I've always been a little geeky, because I insisted that we go through some dry runs, with the "firing party" doing the final countdown and reporting whether or not the countdown ended with the water hitting the targeted vehicle (although there was no actual dumping).

My freinds got impatient and insited on dousing the next car to come along.  I said okay.

As it turned out, the next car to come along was a Montgomery County, Ohio Sheriff's deputy. As the cruiser passed the second "fire control point" I called out: Mark! four three two one, go!"

Six seconds later, a bucketful of water hit the windshield of the cruiser, and the Deputy careened all over the road.

Naturally, we all leapt on our bikes and split up, and got the hell out of there; using shortcuts through woods whenever possible.

I don't think people ought to worry about what kids might forget over the summer. Summer is the season where kids apply what they've been taught, in a creative manner. (The foregoing is a true story, and I hope I am correct in assuming the statute of limitations has run on that car dousing.)  If teachers and parents are worried about anything, it ought to be that some kids were taught too well.

I say, from the first week in June to the Tuesday after the first Monday in September, let the kids play. Let them explore and find things about which to be curious.

The kid who wants to go to Mars will need to know all kinds of math. Use his dreams to pique his curiosity, and if he discovers other interests along the way, then show him that education is the means to his ends.

Let some kid  who wants to be a rock star play in garage bands all summer long. When he gets back to school, explain to him that music is math. And it is.

Grant today's kids what I and my fellows had: nearly three full months of unfettered, unsupervised (well, mostly. I don't mean with LSD or some such, parents still have to do their duty) experimentation and discovery.

Well, that's my polemic for the day. Now if you will excuse me, the coalss are hot and I have a 3 inch thick Porterhouse to grill along with two ears of corn.

Happy Labor Day.

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