What Jim has learned today

I learned there is a very real possibility that after writing this, more than 75 million young people, more than 3 million public school teachers and my little sister, may find cause to hate me. There are two yearly events from my childhood that to this day remain among my most fond of memories. And as I write this, I feel as mean and snickering, harry and green as the Grinch Who Stole Christmas … for arguing to deprive America’s youth of the very things many my age have always considered things to be cherished … summer vacations and fireworks. According to the NEA’s webpage, “Research Spotlight on Year-Round Education” there are several good reasons to abandon the archaic practice of a three-month summer vacation. They list factors such as knowledge retention, full use of buildings and grounds and the ability to address remedial problems as such problems arise. They don’t mention the easing of child care burdens on parents. The NEA goes on to list some counter arguments. They mention problems with scheduling extracurricular programs such as band and competitions. I’m not convinced. Also mentioned are problems that arise when some schools in a district have a year-round schedule while others don’t. A simple solution, make a year-round schedule district wide, even statewide. They go on to say studies of the benefits of year-round schedules are inconclusive. This statement is just outright baloney. Now, my little sister works with students with special needs. For nine months of the year she needs to maintain this emotionally taxing, schizophrenic disposition of having the wisdom and compassion of Mother Teresa and the toughness of Attila the Hun. For her, summer vacation is the therapy that invigorates her for the next nine months. In truth, I feel teachers should be paid twice what they are paid now. They earn it. Perhaps part of their compensation package could include a shorter, more intense sort of therapy. Something like two weeks and about 100 margaritas every year in Cancun might possibly accomplish the same thing. School districts could purchase time shares and tequila in bulk … saving millions. Onto to the next order of Grinchiness … fireworks. As a kid, I loved fireworks. I loved anything that would sparkle, buzz, fly or go boom. In 1967, when I was 10 years old, the neighborhood boys and I could all pitch in our nickels and dimes and muster enough money to go to the hardware store and buy a pound of smokeless gunpowder. No adult required. With a pound of gunpowder we could spend the whole afternoon incinerating ant hills, making tin-foil rockets, smoke bombs, stink bombs and all sorts of other pyrotechnic mischief. During the 4th of July when the fireworks stands were stationed at every parking lot, we could buy Black Cats, bottle rockets, Roman candles and the holy grail of fireworks … the M-80. These were expensive … five for a quarter. M-80s were the ones that could actually be flushed down a toilet and blow up the plumbing. They could destroy mailboxes, put dents in metal garbage cans, charge potato cannons and be buried in watermelons and send chunks showering skyward. John Jaco is lucky he still has a face. My little brother, Sam, is lucky he still has his fingers. The town of Great Bend, Kan., is lucky not to be burnt to the ground. Even though today’s retailed fireworks are a mere shadow of their former power, today’s kids just haven’t the expertise in handling them. Such awesome power should not be allowed to be handled by just anyone, especially kids. Such things should be reserved for experts … like me. This is all I have learned today.

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James Wares is retired and resides in Marshalltown. He can be reached at whatjimhaslearnedtoday@yahoo.com