Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Hare-brained scheme #1

So, educators are finally realizing that middle school is a terrible, awful time and that maybe we as a nation should do something about it. Some are proposing school reform while others advocate anti-mean girl therapy, but, really, they could relax if they adopted my not-quite-patented-but-sure-to-be-revolutionary plan for dealing with middle school.

I like to call it "put 'em all on a boat."

I know what you're saying, "You can't put all the middle school students in the country on a boat." Or "That would have to be a big boat," but hear me out.

First of all, middle school is pointless. I'm sorry, all you devoted middle-school-teachers who faithfully read this ever day, but I really don't remember learning very much. Until 8th grade, when we got to Algebra and some cool American history stuff, 7th grade was a lot like 6th grade was a lot like 5th grade. Besides, there will be teachers on board. As the boat sails from country to country, the students can totally learn stuff . . . like navigation and geography -- see how awesome this is? Which brings us to . . .

Second of all, middle school is miserable and self-pitying. Way too much time thinking about self and whether self should start shaving legs or lifting weights or kissing boys or sniffing glue or whatever. And way too much time thinking about whether self is taller/shorter/fatter/thinner/pimplier/more developed/less developed than "normal." Once the middle school students in my plan get on the boat, they travel to different countries. They meet people who are different from them. They get the whole obsession with "normal" out of their pointy little heads because they see so many different types of life and home and culture that "normal" doesn't matter as much. Plus, perhaps seeing people living in a less luxurious manner than we're used to would help get rid of the "Ohmygod, I just want to die because you won't let me shop at Limited Too!" phenomenon. But, you say, they'll still have their boat rides to focus obsessively on themselves. But no! Because . . .

Third of all, they will be joined by the only group capable of rivaling them in stubborness and self-absorption: old people! Now look, old people (or, as I've learned to say, "senior citizens") can be wonderful, kind, funny, awesome folks. And so can 12-year-olds. But, as a group, they tend to be a little, shall we say, whiny and demanding. And what would be better to make them stop obsessing about themselves than giving them a bunch of obnoxious middle school students to fight with (sorry, I mean "learn from")? And how about showing them different countries and cultures? We're always saying, "Oh, in the US, we don't value our elders' wisdom like they do in other societies [to which I always say, look at the average age of a Supreme Court justice, but that's getting a little off track]" What better way to check out how other societies view those on the either end of adulthood than by visiting them?

In conclusion, I'd like to offer a few quick practical tips for any of you thinking of implementing this strategy:

No, they don't all have to be on the same boat. I'd say maybe 25 seniors and 25 middle schoolers per boat.

Trip duration? I'm advocating 9 months, the typical school year. Let 'em slot right back into high school when they're done. Or even come back for 8th grade and just miss 7th.

Boat staff? Well, you'd want someone willing to have a kind of crappy job in exchange for seeing a lot of the world and doing some community service. Sounds to me like a job for a recent college graduate. You could even set it up like AmeriCorps and forgive their student loans.

Anyway, I feel like I've done all the hard work here coming up with this scheme. Now, I just need a billionaire with some spare boats to help make it happen . . . any leads?

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