Back to School

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It’s on the minds of our kids: school. You can’t miss the tell-tale signs: large displays of spiral notebooks at the stores, sports teams already starting practices, and nightly news notes about getting the kids immunized.

Personally, I have a child who is preparing for his first year of college. Technically, he’s a senior in high school, but he’s going to take some classes at Amarillo College (Dumas campus, home of “the Fightin’ Leg Cramps” or something like that). So he came to me and asked me why the classes he’s supposed to take as a freshman in college (English, biology, etc.) are the same as the classes he just got through taking in high school.

I laughed. Just laughed and laughed. I was hoping if I laughed long enough he’d forget what he asked and we could move on to something else. The truth is: I don’t know. I remember college and it seems like at least a third of the classes I took there were classes I had already had in high school.

Now, someone will argue that this is just to refresh our young minds on the things that are most important in life: good grammar, basic hygiene, etc. They’ll also point out (completely without factual backing) that when these courses are offered in college the subject is gone into in much greater depth. No, they’re not. We read “Romeo and Juliet” in high school and then we read it again in college. The two teenagers [spoiler alert] died both times. When we read “Othello” in high school and college, the only thing we guys noticed were the clever innuendos and—in both cases—we discovered that the girls hadn’t picked up on those innuendos (paying attention to “theme” or “meter” or some other such nonsense) and so our attempts to woo them with classical literature fell flat. Or, as the Bard himself might have said, “The chicks didn’t diggeth us.”

By the time you get to classes in college that actually interest you, you have a hard time paying attention. This is because you’ve been staying up all night “studying”. Studying things like, “how to break into the gym after hours and play wiffle ball with ceiling tiles as bases” or “discussion with my friends—who have the emotional maturity of cabbage—just how to win Susie Larkin’s heart.” And, of course, for many people college is difficult because they are drunk for so much of it. Personally, I have enough other vices and issues that I didn’t see the need to add another, but I can remember standing on the corner in San Marcus, Texas, waiting for the free bus that would take me to what was then Southwest Texas State University at 7:15 in the morning and my fellow students would walk up carrying and drinking from beer and whiskey bottles. Granted, I didn’t know if this were a drink to kick off the day or if this were the last of a “party” begun the night before. Still, it seemed problematic—but I was glad they were taking the bus and not driving.

Now, my son has a new laptop on which to write those papers college demands of a fellow, he’s taller than me, and I think probably a much better student than I ever was. Still, I keep thinking back to that little guy who—just a few years ago—was so happy to show me that he could write his name with a crayon. I don’t know where this paragraph came from, but it’s where my mind is now, so I’ll probably end here after throwing in a “hold onto these memories your kid is growing up fast” comment. Naw, that’d be sappy.