May 25, 2005

School's Out!

Today is the last day of the academic year in the Austin Independent School District. Kids are entering the building singing, laughing. Teachers stand on chairs taking down the last remaining posters from their classroom walls. On the door of a kindergarten classroom, a sign says, “CAUTION: LOOSE PARAKEETS.” Empty pizza boxes from yesterday’s parties sit stacked in the corridor. Kids hunch down at their open desk drawers to stuff their backpacks with all the notebooks, folders, drawings, graded homework papers, pencil boxes, commendation certificates, unwieldy art projects, class photos, and adventure novels they need to take home. A crowd gathers around the cage of the class hamster as the kids say goodbye, the boy who has volunteered to take Buddy home for the summer refusing, for reasons of safety, to let anyone else pet him.

Last night, in anticipation of this great event, I took the opportunity to interview two elementary school students who are somewhat known to me, living, as they do, in the same household as me for almost–ten and eight years respectively. To preserve their privacy, I shall henceforth refer to them by their code names, Agent 95 and Agent 97. Herewith, a transcript of their interviews, edited only in any way I see fit.

FATHER: Would you like to be interviewed?

AGENT 97: [playing computer game] Maybe.

AGENT 95: No. Why? Tell me why. [Interest is aroused; increasing agitation.] Why do you want to interview us? What are you doing? [An explanation is offered.] Interview me first!

FATHER: Okay, well, what was the best thing about fourth grade for you?

AGENT 95: [Burps.] There’s your answer.

FATHER: What is one thing that happened this year that you wish hadn’t happened?

AGENT 95: I learned long division.

FATHER: And what did you most enjoy during the year?

AGENT 95: Reading. We’re going to have a challenge this summer that won’t be a challenge for me: thirty books.

FATHER: And what do you look forward to in fifth grade?

AGENT 95: A way to unlearn long division.

FATHER: And what’s something you dread happening in fifth grade?

AGENT: I get Miss ________ for a teacher.

FATHER: All in all, how would you sum up fourth grade?

AGENT 95: Kind of boring.

FATHER: But what did you like best about it?


FATHER: Hold on a second, you mean you saw all these movies in class? Why are they showing you movies all the time?

AGENT 95: As treats, because we all did good work. We all got at least 90 on the TAKS [TEXAS ASSESSMENT OF KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS] except for this one girl who’s kind of stupid. Drum roll please… Her name is _________. She doesn’t bother to learn anything. She just sits around and talks. She annoys everyone.

FATHER: But the class as a whole was --?

AGENT 95: Pretty good, except a lot of the girls who really bugged me. Like my eyes were popping out every time they spoke to me.

FATHER: How did they bug you?

AGENT 95: I refuse. I just don’t want to talk about it.

FATHER: Were there any girls who didn’t bug you?

AGENT 95: ________, ________, and ________.

FATHER: And what was your favorite recess activity?

AGENT 95: Talking and playing with my friends.

FATHER: What did you talk about?

AGENT 95: None of your business.

FATHER: Well then, what did you play?

AGENT 95: None of your business!

And so we move on to a still younger fraction of a generation, Agent 97. He is to be found sitting at a computer console -- my computer console, as it happens -- focused intently on a small winged and goggled figure on the screen named Ice Cream Ed, who zips to and fro within an ice cream factory, avoiding such occupational hazards as falling into vats of cream, having buckets of chocolate syrup poured on him, etc.

FATHER: Would you like to be interviewed yet?

AGENT 97: One second. [Continues playing Ice Cream Ed. Several minutes pass. The message, “Oh, Fudge! You got creamed!” appears on the screen. The alert journalist seizes the moment to begin the interview.]

FATHER: So, what did you enjoy most in second grade?

AGENT 97: Science. We learned how to plant plants, and their parts.

FATHER: What didn’t you like about second grade?

AGENT 97: Nothing.

FATHER: What are you looking forward to most about third grade?

AGENT 97: Social Studies.

AGENT 95’s voice, offstage: Don’t look forward to Social Studies!

AGENT 97: [Always eager to learn from his brother.] Science.

FATHER: And what was the most fun thing you did in school this year?

AGENT 97: Sold stuff. We sold stuff for crystals [i.e., rock crystals found on school playground, used as currency among certain in–the–know students]. We sold a baseball, some cool–looking rocks, Yu–Gi–Oh cards, a bronze oval, and some other stuff to fourth and third graders at recess.

FATHER: And they bought this stuff?

AGENT 97: Of course!

FATHER: And what did you like least about second grade?

AGENT 97: ________ kept stealing our backpacks and we told her to stop and she kept on doing it. We used to be good friends but now I despise her.

FATHER: But she’s a nice kid. You like her, don’t you? You’ve been friends since kindergarten…

AGENT 97: No, no, you fool, you fool of a dad! Ha ha, you wrote down “You fool!” You fool! [Jumps on interviewer.]

Here the interview inexplicably breaks off…