School 2: School Harder

School is back, baby! And this time, it’s personal. 

Today’s the first day of the school year for my three oldest kids, and they’re all going to the same K-8 charter school. 

This is a new school for all of them, so they’re understandably a bit nervous. Fortunately we took them to the back to school night on Monday and helped allay their concerns by meeting their new prison wardens and getting lost seven different times.

They’re going to love it!

My oldest is in 6th grade, which apparently means “middle school.” When I was a kid, that was still elementary school, and we had this quaint thing called “junior high” that covered grades 7 and 8. So apparently he has 9 different periods and classrooms to go to, instead of just one.

He asked me why they did this, and why he couldn’t have just a single prison warden instead of 9 different ones. I explained that part of growing up and becoming an adult is becoming widely educated across a variety of key subjects, and that the best way to do that is by learning from 9 different adults… who each have an elementary understanding of a single subject.

Sorry, 6th grade isn’t elementary school anymore; I meant middling understanding.

But we met his prison wardens and they’re all excellent, and most of them actually teach multiple subjects. I think the tough thing for him will be getting used to having a locker.

Yes, that’s right, a locker; that really brought you back, didn’t it? Remember those things, getting on one knee and spinning it around and popping the door open, books and homework and ancient chthonic evils all spilling out?

I showed my son how to open his locker, and the whole process came back to me as natural as breathing: spinning the dial around exactly three times to reset it, then carefully pointing the 3cm-wide indicator to the 1cm-wide number, forgetting which direction you’re supposed to spin it to next, guessing wildly but acting confidently anyway, listening for the quiet click of the mechanism like you’re on a heist, turning it again until it exactly matches a ray of light from the window like a sundial, then pulling up on the handle which just makes a mechanical laughing sound in your face, kicking the locker door repeatedly, taking a deep breath, then trying the other way but forgetting which way you did it in the first place and just duplicating the whole process, and finally deciding you’ll just carry everything in your backpack today.

(And people say we have too much nostalgia today.)

My younger kids have good prison wardens, too.  I know they’re good because they teach cursive, which is something only taught by excellent teachers and Rip Van Winkle. It’s supposedly very beneficial for growing brains, and besides which it’s handy for when you suddenly need to ink a 19th-century shipping manifest.

It turns out that the things that are best for our brains are practices that went extinct years ago, like cursive, or sentence diagramming, or reading books. But by mastering these things at a young age, my kids will become so brainy they’ll become smart enough to invent a time machine and travel back to when their skills are actually relevant.

I can’t help but worry that my kids’ more traditional education will leave them disadvantaged in the real world, where all the humans will be enslaved by machine overlords. I worry my kids are gonna look real stupid for wasting all this time learning how to read when Kindle books are distilled by machine learning AI into their purest emotions and injected straight into your veins.

Even their school supply lists are extremely backwards. They’re full of weird things like “pencils” and “paper” instead of three iPads, a VR headset, a Gabb watch, and Bill Gates’s nanobots in their bloodstream. 

But my kids are smart, and they’ll adapt. For example, when my 6-year-old son saw the names of the other kids who’ll sit next to him in class — Lux, Lillian, Perrin, and Raikkon — he turned to us and gave us a confused look. 

“Did you see that name?” he asked.

“Sure did,” I said, rapidly Googling which anime, video game, or fantasy property the name “Raikkon” comes from.

“Who is… Lillian?” he asked.

My heart swelled with pride; that’s a son of Utah right there. These kids are going to be alright.

And if any of you need a 19th century shipping manifest, you’ll know who to ask.

This article first appeared in the Duzett Gazette, the really official newsletter of Carl Duzett. Sign up here to get more content like this in your inbox, as well as some other content that isn’t quite like it, but is probably also good.

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