You are Sixteen Going on Seventeen – Baby, It’s Time to Think

I haven’t posted for a month, and I am disappointed with myself. May was incredibly busy: work was overwhelming, and I was invited and attended a variety of graduations and commencements –  both high school and college.

I spent some delightful time with 16 and 17-year-olds, and heard their perspectives. These teenagers are pretty grounded. Practical are they, and fairly realistic. Yes, there is the occasional delusional one. They are facing major rites of passage: getting into college, leaving home for the first time, and trying to afford college. We had numerous conversations about all this, and I am appalled at what it costs to go to college in this country. And, there’s no guarantee that you come out knowing any more than when you entered.

Three of the kids were in the midst of taking their SATs, and they showed me the “new” SAT “book.” A revelation. There are no grammar or vocabulary sections as in the past, just endless, grindingly dull reading passages that are more an endurance test than any measure of…whatever this is supposed to measure. I read a few and there were questions that I wondered, and am still wondering, what in the name of God does this measure? I couldn’t find any scholarly or intellectual connection. I’m reaching the conclusion that it’s preparation – education be damned – to turn unsuspecting young people into industry fodder. Drones. If you can get through the test, probably take it numerous times, and if you don’t crack – you go to college and then get a job working for The Man where you spend the next many years paying off loans.

I also noticed a fair amount of propaganda in some of the SAT passages. I read one on fracking that implied that it’s a good thing, that there isn’t evidence yet to connect it to earthquakes in areas where they were never earthquakes, or with tap water that comes out in flames or dark brown. It’s all great! Another was on big pharma and GMOs and how much good they do. Jesus! These sweet kids receive these messages, and how are they to know there may be another point of view? Aside that this is all crap –  it isn’t even well-written mind control. There is one nod to literature: the first passage. That’s it! From what I can tell it is usually 19th Century: Dickens, Stevenson, Trollope, Shelley…none of whom these kids know.

I found all this unutterably discouraging and felt sincerely sorry for our future leaders. Plus they live in the suburbs which I am beginning to think is not as wonderful as one would think. It’s too sheltered and sanitized. How does one acquire any life skills? I am so grateful to my parents and our upbringing: we saw the world, we lived in it, and the thirst and love for knowledge was for knowledge’s sake. I see more and more how rare our experience was and how fortunate.

Okay, so not everyone gets to have that. Well, I would pick one of these kids who demonstrates a little gumption, and hand them a pile of money (how I would have the money is not a detail in this fantasy), say nearly a quarter of a million dollars, which is what I imagine the average cost would be for four years including travel, room and board, etc. I would put the pile of money into his/her hands and say, “Here, go travel the world, have meetings with remarkable people, have adventures, shed your middle class morality, spend time in Paris, Hong Kong, a brothel in Tangiers, kayak down a Tibetan gorge. Live!”

And then come back and question authority. Now that is an education.

“You are sixteen going on seventeen
Baby, you’re on the brink…”

Clare Irwin

 

 

 

 

Lyrics from The Sound of Music, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.

 

On the Corner of Cranky and Crabby

CrankyOk, the heat is getting to everyone. Sunday mornings I attend church and I love the fact that it’s not air conditioned – it’s an old stone building which stays fairly cool. There’s lots of fans and it’s nice because the windows are open and you can see the trees and hear the birds. I know I’m in the minority about the a/c. Today is relentlessly hot with no breeze and everyone was a bit sticky after an hour of service. I hung around for refreshments, and had a pleasant conversation with an acquaintance about a recent business trip she made to Singapore.. There was also some Pokémon contest afterwards, but not many people hung around because it was too hot.  One guy said, in the context of the Pokémon event, “Soon we’ll all be living inside our phones!” That statement was received by the two women standing next to him with crabby grumbles.  I could feel the crankiness descending on my fellow parishioners, so I left. Crab

I took a walk around the water which was fairly deserted. Everyone had retreated to the indoors and the cool. I did encounter a father with a baby in a stroller and a little boy around 3 or 4 years old. Cute as a button and he was pushing his bike along beside him. He stopped and turned to me — big blue eyes and light brown curls and said, “Hello my name is Brooks.” I introduced myself and told him I was happy to make his acquaintance. His father was busy on his phone and gave this exchange no attention (maybe he was playing Pokémon?). I also saw some dogs at the dog park having a great time drinking from and playing with a garden hose.

Then I went to the supermarket where everyone seemed to be in a bad mood. Two kids were fighting over a phone — Pokémon again?. While I was there I got a call from one of my kids who unbeknownst to me is on a camping trip in Vermont. The tentative plan of not letting the entire summer go by without reading or maybe thinking about college or whatever seemed entirely forgotten. So now I’m hearing myself on the phone — and it sounds like she’s on stage at a concert — I’m competing with whatever is way more interesting than my now cranky dose of reality that I’m delivering! I have officially arrived at cranky and crabby too. We ended the call deciding to table this conversation till tomorrow in person. But as I drove home I had a hard time shaking the cranky and crabby feeling. So, you know what? I’m going to think about Brooks and his insouciance and the dogs having a grand old time with a plain garden hose and take a leaf out of their book.PokemonClare Irwin