Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Generation Graduation Gap

This past week was graduation week in various places throughout the region.  My own personal Kid #2 (in birth order, not in any other ranking or judgment, all of my kids are equal in my eyes at least that is my story and I am sticking to it) graduated from high school.  Alice truly used high school as a place to grow and prepare for the life ahead of her.  Not everybody does that.  I know I didn’t. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I value the education I received at Hutchinson High School, but I didn’t actively pursue it.  It just sort of happened around me and because I was blessed with good genes I was able to absorb much of it by simply being present.  Like so many people who were in Mr. Knauer’s senior English class I can still recite much of the first eighteen lines of The Canterbury Tales in its original Middle English (which is only useful when trying to annoy people with your pseudo-intellectual persona at parties).  I remember I wrote a research paper for Ms. Lisman’s junior English class about chivalry and knighthood (which introduced me to my all time favorite name for a king, Pepin the Short).  I remember learning the scientific names (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) of a metric ton of different animals for Mr. Harris’s biology class.  I remember not paying attention in Mr. Dixon’s geometry class because my friend, Mitch, and I were way too busy making up strings of puns to put any effort into the quadratic equation.  (Was the quadratic equation even part of the geometry curriculum?  I wouldn’t know, but I can supply a couple dozen puns related to having a cold.)

The chief memories of my high school days revolve around my friends.  People who knew me then will be surprised that I think of my high school days as a social time because I was not a very outgoing person.  Part of being shy was my natural inclination towards introversion and the other part was being chronically ridiculed by a number of my more athletically inclined classmates.  I did have a circle of friends who were quite important to me and I think of them often. 

The aforementioned Mitch was a ringleader for my group.  The parties were most often in his basement.  He arranged trips to Wichita to see movies and the occasional concert and when I went it was almost always in his Toyota Celica that I made the trip. 

I remember one trip in particular.  We were going to a concert and I was wedged into the back seat between a couple of pretty girls (which was as close to a date as I ever got in high school).  We were riding along when a song came on the radio and one of the pretty girls said she liked the song and I should remember it.  Mitch said I probably would remember it because I had a wicked memory.  For the duration of the ride she added to the list of songs she liked that I should remember.  The list got up to six.  Those songs were:  Head Games (Foreigner), Show Me the Way (Peter Frampton), Heartache Tonight (Eagles), Cold as Ice (Foreigner, again), You’ve Got a Friend (James Taylor), and Daniel (Elton John).  I do solemnly swear those were the songs, the whole list of songs, and nothing but the songs so help me Casey Kasem. 

We now jump some 30 years to return to present day.

Alice worked way harder than I did in high school.  She was in four high school musicals (zero for me).  She was in marching band for four years (I marched once in 9th grade and we played the song Feelings and the theme to The Bob Newhart Show).  She was a drum major two of those years putting her in a position of leadership (I sat in the front row of a couple of classes).  She got a 32 on her ACT (I vaguely remember taking the ACT).  She was well liked and respected by a great number of her peers (many of my classmates probably would have been able to identify my body if I’d turned up dead in the quad). 

Alice did high school right and many of her friends did as well.  When I look at them, this is going to sound a little sappy, I actually have a greater degree of hope for the future.  Unfortunately, much of that hope is squashed when I see anything having to do with Congress.

Christopher Pyle is very proud of each of his children, but wishes to point out his wife did most of the hard work.  He can be reached at