Elementary, my dear Watson.
*NOTE* Yes, I know Holmes never said that. But I used it anyway. Contact my legal team if you want to sue me.
It's a Monday, and August is more than half over. And, you know what that means?
It means school starts real soon.
For most of you reading this, it means you get to send your hellions.....I mean kids....back to school with new clothes, shiny folders and a box of crayons. (you better have not cheeped out and bought the box of 8 colors....if the kids don't have the box of 64 with the sharpener in the back, they are shunned for life...)
A few of you may be going back to school yourselves.
We all remember, growing up, what it was like when summer was drawing to a close. Blissfully we wasted away the days of vacation. In my case, I was outside as much as possible. Off having fun with my friends playing games and using our imagination. Life was good. Life was better than good. It was paradise.
And then, that one day when you woke up, your mom said, 'Hurry up. You need to get dressed so we can go school shopping.'
What was this? School? But, I went last year! You mean....I have to go again? AURGH!
And once it was brought back to your attention, the time remaining until school started seemed very short. Each day lost it's lazy feel. They became fast. As soon as you went outside to play, it was bed time.
And then, on that dreadful Monday morning, the first Monday in September, you knew. It was tomorrow. The day after Labor Day. School was about to sink it's claws back in you again. The knowledge of that kept you from enjoying the last day of vacation. Sure, it was a holiday, and there was fun things to do, like see friends and family, grill burgers and dogs, watch Jerry Lewis beg for money.....but you couldn't enjoy it. because, you knew mom was going to spoil it all by telling you to go to bed. At 8:00! WTFOMG! 8:00? The sun isn't even down! I don't need a good nights sleep! The first day of school is just learning where your classes are and getting books!
Elementary school was pure torture for a child. As you got older, it got easier to deal with. You still might not like school, but you went because you had to.
And, kids throughout history have had to go.
In MesoAmerica, the Aztecs started teaching their children at the age of three. The parents taught them the basics like, how to talk, how to dress, how to act in public, etc. When they got a little older, they would go to school each day. The Aztec society provided schooling for free to all. In the schools, they would learn history and religion. They didn't have any books, so it was all memorized. They used songs and dances to help kids remember. But, if you didn't remember your lessons, you were punished. The typical punishments were, being pierced with thorns or being forced to inhale the smoke of a fire made from chili peppers.
The Incas also had schools, but they weren't free, so only rich kids got to go. They also learned about history and religion, but also about numbers. They used something called a 'quipu', which was a long cord with smaller cords attached to it that you would make a series of knots in to represent numbers, or to send a message. The Inca also punished poor students. They would beat the soles of your feet with a cane. But, you could only be punished once a day, and the maximum was 10 whacks.
In ancient Greece, schooling was a little different. Each city-state took care of it for themselves. I touched on the subject of Spartan education in an earlier post, so all I'll say about it here was, it was focused on making good soldiers.
Athens, on the other hand, wanted good citizens. So their schooling focused on reading, writing, music and physical training. Math wasn't a focus because children picked that up from their parents and from trips to the Agora. (market). Punishment for the Greeks was different. In Sparta, they might beat you to death. In Athens, they preferred humiliation. Also, all schools were boys only. Athenian girls didn't go to school because their parents thought it would spoil them.
In Rome, kids had it bad. Rome was a Latin based empire. But all her neighbors were Greek based. So, to be considered well educated, you had to be educated in both. Romans generally started their kids off by making them shadow a Greek servant. (if they had one). Otherwise, they went to school to get a Greek education. It was comparable to the one the Athenians had. The harshness stems from the fact that, after they learned everything in Greek, they had to do it all over again in Latin. And, their lessons were tough. Remember learning the alphabet? Well, they had to learn it 3 ways. Forwards, (a, b, c....), backwards, (z, y, x....), and simultaneous. (a, z, b, y, c, x......). I don't really see the advantage to that, unless you get pulled over for a DUI by a sadistic cop.
Even ancient Egypt had schools for kids. Well, for rich kids, at least. Poor kids were the lucky ones. At the age of four, a father would decide what his son would do for a living. Then, he sent him to school where he was taught only the subjects needed for his profession.
Can you imagine the crappy job your dad would have picked for you when you were four? My dad would have made me a crash test dummy because I was so good at getting hurt in stupid ways.
So, when your kids start whining about school, educate them as to how it used to be.
The pointy hat I alluded to with todays picture? It's called a 'dunce cap'. It derives it's name from John Duns Scotus. He was a theologian and philosopher in the 14th century. His writings were used as textbooks in all the cool colleges, so he had a large group of followers. In the 16th century, some 'new learning', came out in the form of the protestant reformation which included the King James version of the bible. Well, his followers didn't like the new learning. So the protestants started using the name 'Duns', (pronounced dunce), to describe someone incapable of learning.
In more modern times, the dunce cap was used less and less as a identifier for someone considered stupid, and more for humiliating kids who misbehaved or didn't do their school work.
I think schools should bring the dunce cap back. There's a few little snots that could use a good dose of humility.