Friday, April 08, 2011

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates "End of School"

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates "End of School"



"I think parents are putting too much effort into their kids' school," said Karl the Curmudgeon, plonking his beer onto the bar.

Are you serious? I said, mouth agape, plonking my own beer. The quality of education in this country is deteriorating, fewer parents are involved with their children's schooling, but you think they're putting in too much effort? What they need is more parental involvement, not less.

"No, not like that," said Karl. "I mean the parents are putting their own lives, as well as their kids' lives, on hold based on some fairly minor stuff."

We were sitting in the Kranky Kroner, a Danish bar, watching the Danish soccer league semi-finals. I drained the last of my Tuborg, and signaled for Sven to bring me another.

No more for him, I said. He's babbling.

"Kid, I'm fine. Sven, give me another please." He finished the last of his beer and continued. "What I mean is we're in the last six weeks of school, and people are already using the end of the school year as an excuse not to do anything. Just last week, I asked my nephew if he wanted to catch a baseball game in the second week of May, and he said he couldn't, because it was near the end of school for his kids."

That's understandable, they have to study for finals and finish up their end of the year projects.

"But he's not in school," said Karl. "And he doesn't help them at all. These kids are in high school. They know how to study, they know how to write their papers. They're not precious flowers that need to be coddled by their parents."

But this can be a stressful time for kids. Don't they need the stability of their parents to help them reduce their stress?

"Oh, bull----!" said Karl. "His kids are about as average as discount vanilla ice cream. If they put any effort into anything, it's seeing who can be the laziest. But what's really stupid is the game is two weeks before the end of school. It's not even finals week until the following week. But he's got his panties in a bunch because some artificial milestone that doesn't even affect him is approaching in 14 days, and he thinks he needs to be there."

I really don't think he's—

"You know what the problem is? It's his wife. She insisted on putting helmets on the kids when they were three and riding their Big Wheels, and now look at them. She's still putting emotional helmets on their soft little heads."

But I don't see—

"Three!" Karl half-shouted. "Their heads were farther from the ground when they're standing up than when they were sitting on that Big Wheel, but she thought that a toy with all the stability of a Sherman tank was going to do an end-over-end into a fiery twisted wreck, and the only thing that was going to save them was a little plastic bubble."

Karl took a few breaths, and I gave up trying to respond. Listening was much more fun.

"Every year, it's the same thing. 'Getting ready for back to school' means two weeks of emotional and social stifling. When I was a kid, my mom took me to LS Ayres and bought me three pairs of pants and three shirts. Then we went to Hook's Drugs and bought my school supplies. The whole thing took two hours."

Just two hours? Your horse and carriage must have been pretty fast.

"Shut up, Kid. These days, my blasted niece-in-law coddles those kids and turns getting ready for school into some 'experience.'" He put air quotes around "experience," so I would know it was code for "she's a crunchy tree hugging, organic tofu snorting twit who needs to get her head out of her. . . the clouds."

"Getting ready for school these days takes more energy and effort than school itself. They don't need all this mental preparation crap or whatever lame excuse she uses to keep her kids on some organic cotton leash so they don't leave her sight," he said.

How'd you get mentally ready for school in your day?

"We got ready by marching up and down the school yard, singing 'This is my pencil, this is my gun, one is for writing, one is for fun.'"

Classy. And how'd that work out for you?

"We usually spent the first couple hours of school in the principal's office, but it was always a great start. We needed the extra time to get into the right frame of mind for the rest of the year."


My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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