It used to be that most kids hated early September: those back-to-school ads all over the place and the dreaded specter of another long year sitting in front of Ms. Crabtree or whomever. Most baby boomers like me equated Labor Day with a trip to the dentist.
No longer. These days, many urchins actually like school. They look forward to getting up early, hopping on the bus and learning their buns off. How is this possible? I think I know.
Simply put, many American children want to get away from their parents, some of whom micromanage every move they make. These days, everything is set up for the kids. No longer do they have any freedom. It’s play-date this, sporting activity that. Camp here, seminar there. Climb a tree? You could be arrested – and you might even get dirty!
So children experience more freedom at school than they do at home. In the hallways, they can relate to other kids and engage in actual conservations and horseplay without Mom hovering around. Also, the high-tech gizmos in many classrooms give kids some power over their academic performance. So school is cool and much more stimulating than home.
My high school experience was mainly tedious. I had to take Latin. Amo, amas, amat. I am bored; you are bored; he, she or it is bored (loose translation). Five days a week, I fought slipping into a coma.
But when I got home, the fun began. My mother wanted me out of the house. The rule was be home by 6 and don’t assault anyone. I ran wild. Tackle football without equipment, stickball in the street and competitive basketball on a cement court. It was nonstop action with no adults in sight. Why would anyone want to go to school?
Today, adults are swarming their kids like ants on Haagen-Dazs. The tykes are rarely unattended. Instead, they are shuttled from venue to venue in enormous SUVs driven by mothers holding a huge cup of Starbucks in one hand and a cellphone in the other. Leisure time is often contrived and full of pressure to win a black belt or master perfect ballet moves.
Wouldn’t you rather be in school?
The obsession with offspring is part of an overall narcissistic plague that has infected the USA. Children are now extensions of their parents’ egos. They are scorecards. The parents win if their kids do well in whatever. The children feel this very personal pressure so much that school demands are almost a relief.
So three cheers for the beginning of the school term. After a summer of smother, the urchins are finally free to express themselves in classrooms all across America.
Amazing how things have changed.
• Veteran TV news anchor Bill O’Reilly is host of the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor” and author of the book “Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama.”