There were always the kids in school who would outperform or try to outperform the rest of the class. If the lesson was about insects and Sister told the class to bring in two pictures of North American bugs everyone would bring in the two except the overachievers who would bring in museum-quality scrapbooks or perhaps a slide show.
“Thank you, Sarah, once again you have done excellent work and shown your classmates what it means to be a scholar” and Sarah would sit there beaming and ignore the tongues that were stuck out in her direction.
No one would dare admit it but even as we might have made fun of Sarah for her “accomplishments” we all wanted to hear that praise and receive our own pat on the head. It was just difficult to see your opening so when you did it was up to you to take it.
Even though we had a lot to cover in some subjects we were usually given the opportunity to expand on what was being taught. An example was when we were learning about the Civil War and we not only read about the various battles and generals we also listened to songs of the period like, “When Johnny comes marching home”. Now I didn’t know all the words to “Johnny” but the melody was familiar from another song so naturally before we moved on, after seeing Sarah’s self-serving display, I asked Sister if she would like to hear the words that I knew to the same melody.
Sister smiled and said that would be nice and, “Why don’t you sing it for the class?” And so I did.
“When Howdy goes to the store today, hurray, hurray, he’s going to buy some Tootsie Rolls, hurray…” and the second hurray got stuck in my throat when she screamed, “Stop”.
I think this example perfectly illustrates one of the weaknesses of the American education system. We are too hung up on highlighting what our students don’t know rather than what they do know.
“Four score and seven years ago we hold these truths to be self-evident” has been memorized by American students for almost 150 years but I doubt if there are more than two dozen people in the nation who know the entire Gettysburg Address but ask students from the 1950s to finish:
“Oh, I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener” or “I love Bosco that’s the drink for me” or “See the USA in your Chevrolet” and watch the enthusiasm and those bright faces light up after all of these years because that information was captured for all time and they are eager to show you just what they do know. “Take that, Sarah”.
You have to wonder, where are the jingles that can thrill a new generation? Where are the new jingle writers who can lead the nation forward with little ditties which can be used to teach kids about math and history and science and geography and avoiding STDs?
The nation waits.