On Being An 8th Grader – Now and Then

Feb 11, 2022 | 0 comments

 

As we headed home from Ocean Beach Hospital this morning about 9:30, we noticed a group of kids on the sidewalk in front of the old physical therapy building.  All were carrying signs with too much writing to read from the car.  Some seemed to say “NO MORE” and since the kids wore no masks, we imagined it was a mask protest of some kind.  (They really ought to learn how to make legible signs if they want to be effective thought I.)

Later I saw a friend’s FB post from yesterday which said, Got a few kids walking between HS and Hilltop wrapped in American flags and carrying signs, “No more masks.”  So what we noticed must have been a carryover.  I have to say it didn’t do anything except make me feel very very sad.

Part of my reaction, I’m quite sure, has to do with an item I ran across in our downsizing efforts yesterday.  It was a trophy — one of those loving cup sorts — presented to me by the Bank of America in San Rafael, California for “Achievement in Liberal Arts” upon my graduation from high school in 1953.  But what it reminded me of still has a place of honor in my memory —  a certificate presented to me in 1949 by the American Legion, also of San Rafael.  I had won first place in their essay contest on the topic, “What America Means To Me.”  If I remember correctly, the grand sum of $25.00 was awarded along with the certificate.

I can still recall struggling with what I wanted to say in that essay — none of which I can remember after all these years.  And did I have to read it aloud at an assembly or something?  YIKES!  I do have the vague hope that among all of these “souvenirs” I’ll run across the actual essay — unless the American Legion kept it for some reason — and perhaps the certificate, as well.

But what bothers me the most about my 1949 experience in comparison to what I saw kids doing today is that there were forty very important years in between then and now (1961-2001) during which I was actively teaching elementary school kids.  Did I not teach them anything?  Did I fail in my job when I taught the parents and grandparents of today’s middle-schoolers?  Did we all fail to the extent that these youngsters think that by wrapping themselves in flags and carping about wearing masks shows some sort of Americanism?  What an embarrassment.  What a sadness.  What a travesty.

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