As I write this in late August, in the year of our Lord Vader 36, my eldest loinfruits, Gideon and Charlotte, have been official kindergarten students for two and a half weeks. So far, so good. Neither has relinquished their nascent grasps on Christianity to please the Secular Man and his agency of choice, the Public School System. Nor have I been permitted to attend a PTA meeting for reasons the previous sentence should make obvious. All in all, a successful start to what could be 13, 17, 21 or 25 years of schooling if neither of the nuts manages to code the next Angry Birds or the Academic-Government Axis of Debt doesn’t collapse under its own bloat. I commenced my extremely undergraduate career in the fall of 0 L.V. (1977). So whereas Gideon and Charlotte have no real point of reference for how kindergarten could or should be, I am in the forunate position of having one and a half and half score plus one years of accumulated wisdom and yellowed memories with which to compare the gartening experience of the disco era to that of today. See, in my day, after I’d awoken at 3:30 a.m. to milk the neighbors’ cats, we’d tromp off to the bus stop where a diesel-spewing bus would haul us off to the education facility even though it (the bus) contained no seat belts or anti-lock brakes, and its sole infotainment system was a fourth-grader named Toots who could play “Yankee Doodle” with his armpit. My kids, by contrast, enjoy no such wonders of mass transit as our school district doesn’t bother operating a bus fleet. Instead, my wife gets to load up the chitlins – even the one who doesn’t yet go to school – for a six-minute round trip that somehow takes 30 minutes. But at least our property taxes are as high as they were in Texas. Bonus! My mom recently sent a photograph from my first day of kindergarten, back when I was footloose and afro-free (my hair didn’t turn in upon itself until the third grade). This photo taught my children a valuable lesson in deciding when is and is not the appropriate time to laugh at Daddy. Because even though I was stylin’ and possibly profilin’ in my KC Royals shirt and striped white socks, I also schlubbed my school supplies in a large, brown, paper grocery sack. Probably made from old growth forests that were cut down for a parking lot. Suddenly this column is a Joni Mitchell song. Anyway, the spawn, naturally, have backpacks. I had a backpack in school, too. High school. Not kindergarten. What do they need backpacks for in kindergarten? The kids are barely four feet tall, yet are expected to schlep around a fabric container nearly 3/4 their own heights on the off chance a memo gets sent home to mom and dad. Or are the backpacks just an extra vessel for the ginormous lunch bags the modern child now requires? Full of plastic-lidded containers divided into sections for sandwiches, Nutella, chips, fruit, Nutella, antipasto, scones, Nutella-flavored pudding and salisbury steaks, these contraptions are light years ahead of the plastic Glad bags with the impossible-to-fold-over tops my lunches were housed in. They keep food from getting squashed while giving daddy something contstructive to do (wash them/lick out the Nutella) instead of getting into trouble out on the mean streets of the sofa. I’ve also noticed that school today is much more about shared responsibilities than back when polyester ruled the pants. The school district provides a building structure loosely formed in the shape of a mid-century fallout shelter and some teachers, and we, the parents, provide the children and 85% of classroom supplies. Because if you’re already buying a box of crayons, pair of scissors, Big Chief tablet (sorry, Native American CEO of WinStar Resorts tablet), some tissues, pencils and paste, why not buy a dozen of each and spread the love? I’ve yet to decide if this mass-sharing plan is meant to indoctrinate the children into sympathizing with socialistic tendancies, or as a real-life example of how collectivism ultimately leads to shared misery for all. Again, I’m not allowed at PTA meetings. My kids do actually appear to be learning things, which I believe is an improvement over my own experience. I recall kindergarten as a land overflowing with milk and cookies and naps that was over before lunch yet still caused me to miss “The Price is Right.” We may have learned to use a telephone. Gideon and Charlotte, who already know how navigate an iPhone better than you do, attend full-day kindergarten. Except on Wednesdays when school lets out early just to show working parents who’s really in charge. I was informed that by the end of the school year, they’ll be able to assemble their own lasers using lenes they ground themselves from pebbles found on the playground. Although I think that was in an email I sent to myself. Yet, despite the educational evolutions of the past three and a half decades, it is nice to know that some things remain the same. Namely, the delicious, delicous taste of Elmer’s. Especially when mixed with Nutella.
*Jason Fox still raises his hand to go to the restroom.