As of today, I am officially the father of three teenage girls.
Yep. Annie Grace is 13.
Her two older sisters rolled into teenagehood six and three years ago, respectively. Bugaroo has been acting like a teenager at least as long.
Like me, she's the third child of the same sex as two older siblings. My rural upbringing back then was far different from hers, as different as three boys are to three girls.
How different? Homework and schoolwork is always a challenge, but my time wasn't stretched as thin with after-school activities. Girl 3 rarely has to fear getting pummeled by an older sibling, something that was a constant worry for Boy 3. She can afford to be picky to an exasperating degree about food; the boy was just glad to have food.
Of course, as Judge Wade Padgett is pointing out in his exemplary series on teens and crime, the world is both safer and scarier now than it was in 1974, when I became a teen.
It's safer because of the laws and registries and refusal to accept some activities; but it's scarier because those laws and attitudes are so tough that teens can now go to jail for things that historically have been little more than rites of passage.
Don't believe for a minute the fiction that children of yesteryear lived only in idyllic Ozzie and Harriett land. This passage bears repeating: Visitors to our town are shocked at the behavior of our children. Is it right to tolerate such disorder? Aren't children reared under such conditions apt to become law-breakers? Criminals and law-breakers have no regard for others and their property. Do we want our children to continue in this way?
That wasn't a reference to those Evans High boys who got caught vandalizing Lakeside the other night. Those words were in a letter to the editor in The Columbia News; the town to which it refers is Harlem. The year was 1927.
Amazing. Even some in our Greatest Generation were juvenile delinquents!
Then or now, boy or girl, reaching the young age of 13 carries a foreboding sense of approaching adulthood. That freight train runs its preordained course whether we want it to or not, and there's little we can do to slow it down.
We can just try our best to hang on for the ride and make sure it stays on track. That's especially important for my family's caboose.
Happy birthday, Annie!
One of the drudgeries about which I consistently hear complaints not just from my own children, but from other parents, is the amount of homework students get.
In the midst of this ongoing debate comes extensive research from a Duke University professor showing that homework is nearly worthless.
The Washington Post, which reported on the study, summed up Professor Harris Cooper's conclusions: Elementary school students get no academic benefit from homework, except reading and some basic skills practice, and yet schools require more than ever.
The study found there is limited value to homework in middle and high school, but if studying runs more than two hours per night in high school, or 1 1/2 for middle school, it's wasted.
At least as interesting as the story is the reaction to it. The response from academia, including locals to whom I passed along the Post story, has been almost universally un-academic: So what? We do it that way because we've always done it that way.
Perhaps, in the coming debate between candidates for school board chairman, and in interviews for a new superintendent, the hopefuls could study the research and offer an opinion on whether we need to change the way our schools do business.
And if their answer is, "but we've always done it that way,"make 'em do their homework.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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