Not only is it a small world, but it's a self-intersecting one too.
The first time I realized this was 9th grade at the local bus stop. Half way through the year a new kid shows up at our stop and in overhearing a conversation I learn he's from North Carolina, which I felt was very cool since that's where I was from (more or less—we moved to North Carolina when I was five, then moved here to Lower Sheol (and I had yet to forgive my Mom this transgression) when I was ten; I was hardly from North Carolina) and wanting to know more, I asked him where he moved from.
“Brevard,” he said.
I could not believe it—I too was from Brevard. Upon further discussion we realized we knew the same set of kids too! We hadn't met because his family moved there about a year after we moved away.
Today was another realization of the self-intersecting nature of this world.
I met my friend Ken D. at FAU to buy a telescope from him. I had met him only last year through one of the gaming groups I attend. We were in the parking lot talking about the changes to the campus since I last attended (oh, perhaps a good six to seven years or so), pointing out the hideous designs of the new buildings and the renovations of existing buildings (the Biology building had been completely gutted) when talk turned to Flemming Hall.
No, it had not been renovated yet, “and it still looks the same when I attended summer classes there in '86,” said Ken. “In 10th grade, I took part of a summer program they offered here.”
I could not believe it—I too participated in that same program (only I was in 11th grade). Turns out we took at least two classes together, or at least the same classes but possibly at different times. I don't remember him, and I don't think he remember me, but still, it's a wierd feeling when my past comes crashing into the present at such odd moments.
The story concludes with a Santa Monica High senior who's never written a long term paper, though he's enrolled in honors and AP classes. He says writing research papers would take time from his extracurriculars: “band, tennis, religious studies and political and youth groups.” He also claims there wouldn't be time for required testing, though there are no required tests for 12th graders.
As a student, I would have loved not having to write a term
paper (as an Honors student in English, which itself is a convoluted tale, I
was obligated to write a “literary term paper” about a long dead author)
and all the associated silliness that went along with it; the bibliography
cards (3×5″ card, X number of sources, no exceptions),
the note cards (4×6″ card, minimum of 50 cards, no exceptions),
the thesis statement (since the Statues of Limitations have run out I can
now confess that I cribbed my thesis statements right out of encyclopedia
write-ups of the authors I had to write about), the outlines, the rough
draft (long hand, in pen) and the final typewritten report (the
margins being precisely 1″—no more, no less). Sure, my
teachers assured me that this would be of prime importance in the coming
years and that this was the “proper” way to write a research
paper (yea, right. I remember having to write a grand total of one (1)
research paper, which I basically made up on the spot in the style of Dave
Barry and getting a C; I suppose I only got that grade since it may have
been more interesting to read than the regular
turned in). As a student, I hated term papers.
But now, reading the above, I'm horrified at the thought that students today don't have to write one, and more likely, can't! And that educators either don't care, or can't afford to care.
The comments on that particular story are horrifying as well:
Though I don't believe this is a new phenomenon—I had friends at my small liberal-arts college who hadn't a clue how to write a paper—it certainly is more alarming now that I'm a parent. I see my stepsons, both in accelerated programs at school, completing projects that include coloring in downloaded maps and imagining what people would wear at a certain point in history (not, mind you, looking it up and reporting on it, but imagining it). I've been told to ignore errors in my own son's written and spoken English in an effort to get him to “like” communication. I can't be the only parent wondering when it will be time for my kids to focus on how to gather information and be able to organize it in a useful way.