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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

30 years later

Beer and pretzel games are a new discovery for my family. We’ve always had a few board games here, but we never played them on a regular basis. I call them beer and pretzel games because when I was in college we had hard core games such as SPI’s War in Europe and we had simpler games like Risk and Diplomacy that we’d play in the course of a night. The lighter fare was for fun, the games we tacked to a wall and studied all semester, they were for blood.

Catan has entered our blood. And it was baptized on Friday night, a glass of cola stood in for holy water. Then, after we’d tried to dry it, we froze the damaged pieces. They’re sitting near the fan of the freezer: a tray of Catan pieces.

We’re using common physics here, the colder air of the freezer is supposed to be drier. That will draw the moisture from the game, and we may be able to resume playing again, soon.
I discovered another accident that will require freezer intervention too. Somehow, in a flood caused by a severe storm last fall, many of the high school and college yearbooks I’d stored since the 1970’s became damaged.

I remember the storm. Several boxes of books and games had been lost, as well as clothes and some electronics. A camera had gone underwater. We’d been taken by surprise.

I’d looked in the box for the yearbooks then, but not noticed the damage. The books had been off the floor in an area that had not drawn any water, or so I thought. In addition, I’d wrapped them in plastic.

Not enough.

Among the books to survive was my senior year high school yearbook. There was the terrible bio teacher who’d nailed the coffin shut on any interest I’d had in pursuing science in college. There was a colleague at another company. I worked with him daily until very recently. It was a small high school, but we’d never known each other then.

A friend from grammar school starred at me from the pages. We’d grown apart in high school and ended the four years disliking each other immensely.

There was Chuck, seven foot tall as a freshman. He lacked some motor skills, as so many of us do in high school, and proved a disappointing prospect for the basketball team. Why didn’t the coaches work with him? He grew to hate anyone who pointed out his height…

Doesn’t it seem as though my high school years were a series of wasted opportunities and frustrations?

Meanwhile, somewhere on xanga, my 16 year-old daughter is blogging about her high school experience. She had wanted to switch teachers in a class. Although she’d expressed interest in college art last year, this year she is unsure what she wants to do. She’s done well in math classes in the past. Scored well on the math portion of standardized exams. Maybe she’ll take science or math in college.

She’s in Buffalo Grove High. I’ve searched the net. There doesn’t seem to be a site called BGHS.sucks or any such individual or group. I’d join. The current problem is that her counselor couldn’t imaginatively create a way for her to switch classes to a teacher she liked. The math department head imagines that if she keeps a journal of all her work efforts, he may consider the request "later." In other words, she must prove she isn’t responsible for the problems. Later, I discovered when I pressed for a complete answer, could be in two, four weeks or even later. The semester is a week old today. She is expressing problems now. I’ve grown to accept her intuition. This is going to be a failure.

Now, BG has a good reputation. It’s received some federal recognition. Its graduates score well in the standardized exams and seem well prepared to go to college.

In general, when I’ve talked to her teachers, they seem knowledgeable and willing to help. I can’t say the same thing about the schools staff. I believe it has to do with the least common denominator. These schools do well in preparing you for the basic journey, but not for the odd ball kid, for the kid who may need some extra services. Their services are aimed at satisfying the LCD, not the exception.

My daughter told me she plans to drop her current math class. That would leave her with only two years of math, going into college. She may need to take additional math classes in college. Worse, she may decide never to pursue those dreams of a life of math…

Thirty years allows some perspective on these things. What will she think in 2035?

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