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Blame Game

By Greg Cahill

SUFFER THE CHILDREN, indeed. When I was a kid, summer vacation was sacrosanct. Those long, hot New England months were the perfect setting for endless hours at the seashore, gorging on cheap pizza, and even cheaper milkshakes. By mid-July, the salty air cleansed our souls, and the sand collected in most of our body cavities. At night, the kids in my neighborhood played kickball, rode bikes through the toxic cloud wafting from behind the mosquito-abatement truck (OK--stupid, right?), or just gathered on door stoops in a rite of passage that usually involved fumbling adolescent sex.

For the most part, summer vacation was 12 weeks of unfettered bliss, with a bit of intermittent hell thrown in for good measure by our older siblings.

Now, Gov. Gray Davis has proposed an end to summer vacation as we know it for middle-school kids in California. He said the little buggers are lagging in their studies. Of course, that may be because California spends less on public education than most states we smugly think of as backwater havens for inbred cousins. But, the governor says, the kids are going to have to pay the piper. What do you expect from a guy named Gray?

The notion that kids are to blame for society's shortcomings is nothing new. Until the mid-'50s, public schools assigned very little homework. Then the Russians launched Sputnik and the grownups got scared. They heaped on the homework. Things eventually cooled a bit. But when the economy tanked in the '70s, educators cranked up the volume once again. And when the Japanese began to dominate the hi-tech markets in the '80s, the schools knew just what to do.

Now kids barely have time to be kids.

Twenty years of neglect has nearly bankrupted the public school system, and Gov. Davis and an army of gray-suited bureaucrats want our kids to spend summer vacation in a stuffy schoolroom atoning for the sins of the state's tightwad taxpayers.

Those toxic clouds of bug spray didn't stink half as bad as this sort of pusillanimous public policy.


'Bohemian' editor Greg Cahill is still coughing up chalk dust from beating the erasers in front of Whipple School's coal-fired furnace.

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From the January 18-24, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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