I decided somewhere in the vicinity of the third grade that I wasn’t going to do homework anymore. Not because I was lazy – of course not! Because I was principled.
I felt that the school day took up more than enough of my time, and once I stepped outside of the actual building, my time should belong to me, most certainly not homework. My time was to be spent doing more important things, like watching television, catching minnows down at the pond, and smoking sticks of bamboo like cigarettes in the woods.
So I didn’t do it. I went on strike against homework.
I take that back. I only did homework, projects, and papers that could be done during school hours. If I had extra time in one class, I would use that time to work on a paper for another class, or do work during lunch time. Once the school bell rang at the end of the day, though? It was pencils down. Sorry, teacher-type folks! 3:30 PM is the beginning of MAGGIE TIME.
While going on strike against homework was, in itself, specifically problematic, you know, good grades being important and all, the more sinister problem was that I had successfully developed a way to trick myself at a very young age into believing I had very, very firm principles about things.
It was funny, because I only had the aforementioned firm principles about stuff I didn’t want to do. I don’t think I ever had principles that revolved around things I enjoyed doing. Can’t think of one time.
I don’t recall ever having had principles that governed my behavior around listening to Poison cassettes, eating Fudge Stripe cookies, or spending my birthday money on trick gum and a gigantic 6” x 6” pin for my acid-washed jean jacket that read, “Is that your face or did your neck throw up?”
If you were to spring something like a weeks-long science project on me? Oh man, I would become the most principled kid you’d ever met. I would lay out a case like a lawyer at trial, listing a myriad of principles that would prevent me from turning that project in.
Thank god the term “self-care” didn’t start floating around until recent years or I would have dropped out of school in the fifth grade because school didn’t “nourish my soul”. On the up side, at least I’ll never die from workaholism.
This principle lasted all the way through school, culminating my senior year of high school with my refusal to submit a portfolio for judgment in my AP art class, the class that I nearly killed myself working for three years to get into, because as I explained to my art teacher, “I think it’s wrong for people to judge art.”
It certainly wasn’t because putting together the portfolio would have been months and months of work.
He smiled at me, leaned back in his chair and put his arms behind his head and said, “Well, if you’ve got a bullshit excuse for not turning in work that would get you college credit, I guess that’s a pretty good one. I mean, I don’t buy it, but I can see where you do. I’m impressed with your ability to blow it.”
I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if I’d gone to one of those Montessori schools where kids have the freedom to choose what they want to work on during the school day. I would have plunked myself down on a rug the first day and said, “I feel like watching Fraggle Rock all day, so thanks!”
It cracks me up to no end when people get all excited that their babies are into books, thinking that it makes Junior seem inquisitive and intelligent, and I’m standing in the shadows like a villain in a black hooded robe, cackling and hissing, “Sure, they love books now, but just wait until those little suckers see television.”
I mean, I’m sure your kid is inquisitive and intelligent. As much as I’m sure regular milk seems like a great thing – until someone gives you chocolate milk for the first time and you decide that regular milk is the most disgusting thing on Earth.
I’m just saying don’t buy books for Junior too many years in advance until you have a full understanding of what television will do to their wide little eyes. By the time I was five years old, I would have pitched every book I owned into a bonfire if it meant I could watch another episode of The Facts of Life, and aside from being a total asshole, I turned out just fine.
I mean, I did get a failing grade on a book report for “White Fang” in the sixth grade because I wrote a ten page paper on it having only read the back cover and first two pages of the book and my teacher figured it out, but I think on some level he must have admired my moxie. Especially after I had my mother go meet with him in my defense, still thinking I could finesse my way out of it. That book was SO BORING.
If there are any eleven year olds out there today pulling that sort of thing, I would love to sit down for a chocolate milk with them sometime. I *adore* foul-mouthed little criminals. Kenard was one of my favorite characters on The Wire.
Plus, even with forty to sixty hours of television a week as a kid (not even remotely an exaggeration), I still turned out to be a writer, so meh? Maybe reading books as a kid isn’t THAT important. Who knows, though? Maybe if I’d chopped it back to thirty hours of television a week I’d be writing about something like the Higgs Boson Particle instead of writing dissertations on the pros and cons of being Charlie Sheen versus Emilio Estevez.
Happy Friday – thanks for hanging around! I’ll be out next week, so smell ya later!