Back to school: No reader left behind

OK, everybody. Summer’s over. Back to school.

That’s it. Single file. No pushing. Get rid of that gum. What’s that, Johnny? Do you have something you want to share with the class?

Let’s pay attention now. My name is Mr. Breneman …

… and we’re going to be covering a lot of material today so I am going to need your undivided attention. And stop slouching.

Let’s start with a list of spelling words. Ha, just kidding! Nobody “spells” anymore. LMFAO! In fact, the most popular form of communication — texting — is all about misspelling everything. Accidentally spelling a word correctly in a text message is apparently for squares, or whatever the young people call “nerds” these days.

Next up, math. Hey, I thought math was about numbers. So what are all those letters for? You want me to calculate the value of x? y?

OK, science. Little-known fact: Man’s activities impact the earth. Kids tend to understand this; conservative politicians tend to deny it. This is why most third-graders possess a more accurate understanding of climate issues than the average Republican member of Congress.

English. Ever feel like you’re getting a little rusty? Me too. I find myself regularly in need of remedial work. It’s not that I necessarily want to know how to use the word “twerking” in a sentence. I’ve just always believed that I must stay on top of the ever-evolving English language to maintain my ability to write at a second-grade level.

There, now that we’ve touched on the core topics, let’s move on to some cutting-edge education information revealed in my groundbreaking study of the American educational system, “Learn, Baby, Learn.”

First, some true or false.

1. Any child who works really hard in school can grow up to be president of the United States.

OK, technically this is true. But who would want to? You’d just end up trying to do your best for America, but everyone would hate you. Half the people would spend most of their time just trying to destroy you instead of helping America.

So, president? Nope. Get that idea out of your head right now.

But …

No buts, Jimmy.

2. Children from all around the world are outperforming us in math and science.

True. But this is not new. The latest studies now show Russian students are beating us in home economics, Saudi Arabian children are outperforming us in American history and Chinese children are crushing us in English.

3. Leading experts recommend that after 12 to 16 years of traditional school-based education, one should refrain from all future learning.

False. Education is forever, people. Sure, it’s important to earn a high school diploma. Maybe even go on to spend $4.2 million on a college education (up from $2.9 million last year).

But the fact is, you’re never done learning. Just like your stomach, your brain wants you to feed it.

This doesn’t mean we have to run out and pursue a quadruple Ph.D. in algebraic psychology, political photosynthesis, forensic theology and Euclidian geothermal metaphysics.

Nowadays, it’s easy to find courses online or at your local community college. Right now I’m taking Introduction to Brain Surgery, Beekeeping for Dummies and FSL: Female as a Second Language. (Next semester: How to Screw Up a Small Business, Advanced Zumba and 35 Ways to Beat the Grim Reaper.)

Earlier this week, as I imagined classrooms around the Seacoast filling up with future cops and firemen, artists and writers, lobstermen and lobsterladies, scientists, inventors and teachers, I happened to see a kid wearing an astronaut suit.

He was with his mom at Breaking New Grounds and he looked like the real deal. Sweet orange jumper with the NASA patch right on it. His collar ringed with some kind of space-age polymer to create an airtight seal when he pops on his helmet. This kid looked like he had the right stuff.

And just seeing him inspired me. To keep dreaming. Keep learning. Keep discovering.

Ding. Class dismissed.

— John Breneman

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