succumbing to peer pressure

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

In the middle of work this afternoon I stared dumbfounded at this phrase from an article on new learning requirements for first grade: able to "explain the difference between goods and services and . . . describe how people are both buyers and sellers of goods and services."

Well aren't we just training little Capitalists? I'm sure there are many other requirements for the first grade, and I have no idea why the author of this article chose to highlight this one requirement, but good grief! Must the assimilation into a consumer culture start so early?!

Also upsetting, the general theme of this article is how tough these new guidelines are, forcing first graders to start reading and writing at such an early age. I'm sorry? I could read and write at age 4, before starting kindergarten. Yes, I realize that's a little advanced, and is thanks to the fact that I have two excellent parents who were engaged enough to teach me how to read as soon as I showed an interest. Nevertheless, my entire kindergarten class learned how to read that year, covering phonics and so forth. What the heck are kids doing now in kindergarten and first grade (nevermind the ever-increasing rate of pre-school attendance) if they aren't learning letters and numbers??

Sunday, November 28, 2004

One of the cool kids

I've never been "one of the cool kids." And that's ok, I've never aspired to be one, and I've always been surrounded by terrific friends. Oh sure, there have been moments, like those last three weeks at nerd camp, or early in the first semester of freshman year when I was "cool" because I knew someone who could buy us alcohol, or that first summer at Belmar when everyone partied at our place. And besides, "my" cool kids were never what others might define as the cool kids. Fairly consistently throughout my life, there has been a group of people whose friendship I've always been on the fringes of. I'm sure some of them would disagree with that statement, but for me it's the truth. For one reason or another, these always seem to be the theater kids. In high school I didn't have time for theater, what with all the hours spent at the gym and everything, but I had a few friends who were in the theater crowd and I would occasionally go to their shows and hang out afterwards, jealously wishing that I really fit in there. And in college I did manage to become a part of the theater crowd, and that was pretty awesome. But again, I was just slightly to the outside of the group on whom we all agreed were the "cool" ones or the involuntary "leaders" of our little troupe. Which was ok, but I frequently felt like I was trying to be just a little funnier, just a little wittier, to hold their attention just a little longer. Anyway, where am I going with all this? I'm back home this weekend and coincidentally ended up hanging out with a portion of the old theater crowd from high school, and at some point around 2 am, sitting around playing cards, I realized that I did fit in. Completely comfortably, with no effort, I was one of them. I'm sure this is just some artifact of growing up, all of us trying less hard to be "cool" or "interesting" and just being ourselves and relaxing. But nonetheless, it was nice. So I had this fabulous night out - great music, unpretentious dancing, dorky high school card playing (seriously, we played Egyptian rat-screw, does it get any dorkier? ok, maybe if we'd played magic, but we all have our limits), drinking, smoking, hot tubbing, late night/early-morning run to Southern Kitchen (a requisite for any trip home). This seemed all the more noteworthy because, for all the fun I had in Chicago last spring, my relationship with those kids hasn't changed much. As wonderful as my last night was in town, walking to the diner late at night, I was the one keeping up with them, fighting to be interesting and clever enough to be worth their company. Yes, I realize this is merely my own neurotic personality and not the reality of our friendship, but it's the way it felt. And I didn't mind, it was weirdly comforting to fall back into our old roles. But likewise, it was nice this past friday to realize that something different is possible. And some parts of growing up are ok.