Friday, March 7, 2008

They don't know they're born

The brief mention of high school English in my last post got me thinking about my school experience versus that of my pampered kids (well, the 12 and 15 year olds anyway). When I tell them I had to hand-write everything, (in my case with a good fountain pen), I might as well be speaking of quills and ink jars. I'm not even that old, being born in the 60's. We actually had a type-writer in our house, but somehow that was seen as cheating. Don't ask me why, but I expect those nuns thought hand cramps from hours of writing in painstaking cursive got you time off in purgatory. Hand-written wasn't the only requirement- it had to be legible otherwise they would scrawl "Illegible" across the page, and hand it back with much pomp and public ceremony. (I'm now reminded of that other comment "Irrelevant waffle" which graced my pages from time to time.)

And if I didn't write the assignment down correctly? Well, we did have phones and since we all had so much bloody homework, there was a good chance of catching a classmate at home. None of this larking about with extra-curricular acticvities. A successful phone call however, depended on the line being free. No second line, voice mail or cell phones then. Not even a home fax you could resort to. You'd just be faced with hours and hours of that irritating busy signal which indicated someone's mother yakking to friends.

These days my kids have a dizzying array of options for dealing with such an emergency:
- phoning friends on one of many phones; cell phone, land-line or parents' cell phones.
- e-mailing someone (for some reason the least attractive option since they would have to - gasp- wait a few seconds for an answer)
- IM; 'cause we know they're all instant messaging when they're supposed to be doing their homework
- contacting the teacher. In my day this would be tantamount to poking a snake with a stick, and even now causes me mild palpitations, but apparently it's cool. (I think that is a lame word, but I don't have anything else up my sleeve. Dope, perhaps?) I feel sorry for the teachers, although on reflection, more fool them for giving out their numbers.
- go to the school's web site or, in my kids' case, the school's homework web site. Their teachers post homework assignments (with due dates) every day so there is absolutely NO excuse for anything, ever, end of story.

Forget your homework? - no problem for my cherubs. They can e-mail their homework straight to the teacher, thus circumventing forgetfulness and "printer problems' which are the 21st century homework-eating dogs. And if their e-mail is down for some reason, they carry these little flash drives around their necks, which magically suck up their Word documents and make them reappear on the school's system, all ready to print out.

The one down side to all this technology is that their grades are e-mailed to me, as are missing assignments, bunking off episodes and any other shenanigans. Makes me wonder whether they'd have been better off in my day. At least we weren't busted all the time!


  1. ExPatMum - even when *I* was at school we didn't have all this stuff. We had prep diaries which had to be signed by the house mistress/parent. We hardly had electicity in Kenya so therefore no computers - all handwritten. *sigh* they really don't know they're born, do they.

    P.S. I think this makes me sound old. I'm only 25, honestly.

  2. Well I remember the days of fountain pens & before that dipping pens with nibs into inkwells! I am glad we had to write everything down. It was good practice & we had to spell too! Otherwise there were severe punishments. Oh, don't start me off!

  3. Yep, no chance of squeezing a 5 in between the 8 and the % to bump your mark up with an e-mail.

    Not that I ever did...

  4. Nutty - yes, even in the last few years of having kids with serious homework things have changed dramatically. I can barely keep up.
    Maggie - over here they hardly bother with penmanship as everything is on computers and they have spellcheck. Outrageous really.
    TMOTL - it took me a while to figure out your past misdeeds ('cause I would never have done anything like that you understand). Very funny.

  5. I still have the writing bump on my second finger caused by the pressure of the pen (although thankfully the ink stains have finally worn off). Yup, don't know they're born.

  6. The really scary thing is that in only a few years time sitting down and writing a letter by hand is going to look as dated as those black and white 1930's and '40's movies we used to watch at home on rainy saturday afternoons in the winter... (remember when we only had 3 channels?)

  7. I find it scary how hard it is to keep up with it all. What is even scarier is how college kids can buy essays from websites, so that college profs have to have software that spots plagiarism. What a world we have created for ourselves.

  8. Expatmum - send the kids to stay with me. At our 'my god that's expensive' schools that our kids go to here, there is nothing as high tech as sending homework on line or 'poking' your teachers !!

  9. eliz - major flashback to that bump on the right middle finger!

    iota - scary that the profs need software to spot it, they should know their subject inside out shouldn't they?

    m chick - don't make rash statements like "Send the kids to me" - we have a lot of airmiles in this house!!

  10. Don't you worry about a thing - send children and I shall treat them as my own which means leaving alone them with their homework whilst I blog away and totally ignore the lot of them !!

  11. Just read Iota's comment about buying essays from websites. What a fabulous idea - do you think anyone would be interested in my thesis on the link between Thomas Hardy and the Impressionist painters?



  12. Yes, all this technology does seem to be creating quite a monster. teachers who are on call 24/7, kids who can't forget an assignment or fail a test without getting busted by everybody and parents who are 'expected' to supervise all their children's school lives at the touch of a button.

    These systems do still have their glitches though. This week our High School automated phone system had a nervous breakdown. It called all the homes of all the kids who have been absent over the past 2 months (2,000 students) at 2 AM! It did this several times, resulting in many angry phone calls to the school attendance office the next morning. Makes you long for 'the good old days!'

  13. The logical conclusion is to attend school by email or text. Why bother being there for real?

    I got a reverse charge call the other day from my daughter to ask me if I had topped up her mobile phone...

  14. consider yorself tagged, expatmum! Come over to find out!

  15. Potty - Sounds quite interesting. You could post it in installments?

    Kat - OMG, we had ours tested last week and I didn't even get a call! Must warn them about nocturnal errors.

    Charlotte - welcome. Just glanced at your blog and am here to tell you that they do eventually embrace the veg. My 12 year old was apparently "allergic" to them until about 9 months ago. The 4 year old snacks on raw carrots but I have no idea how I managed that. And wasn't virtual school formerly "Open University?"

    Maggie - I'll be right over. But first I have to investigate the strange black/pinkness on my 4 year old's right eye. It can't be conjunctivitis - I have too much to do tomorrow!

  16. I found some airmail envelopes in a box the other day - they are almost extinct I'd have thought! At least we knew how to spell x

  17. I felt so old reading this post (born in the 70s) - holy cow - homework websites - thank God my daughter's only 2. I was just saying to someone the other day that we got married (a paltry 10 years ago) before the advent of 'online registries' and they looked at me like I'd admitted to being from the stone age!

  18. I hope people don't forget how to handwrite. My writing has definitely got worse over the years as I've typed more ... but at least I learnt how to handwrite in the first place!

  19. We'll have to form a "Them were the Days" blog and bore the pants off our kids.
    Meanwhile, I have been in bed all day with the season's only cold. I jinxed it last week by telling someone I had been really lucky this year. I am only (really) up to check on little one's eye - we think it is an allergic reaction to something. And to finish off the Egyptian messenger costume my 12 year old informed me he needed for tomorrow - on Friday night. (I may well blog on that.)

  20. Just dropping in after a time away and was taken right back to my school days particulary at my writers bump on my finger just like Elizabethm!
    I always had ink on my sleeves and there was always splatterings on ink on the floor by my desk...rather glad The Boy won't be doing that - carpets are SO expensive!!!!!

  21. I'm amazed at my children's inability to spell, which I blame on a)their primary school's indifference, and b)text language. Why abbreviate the as da? Makes no sense to me whatsoever. I do like the idea of emailing assignments and being emailed their grades. No "forgetting" what they got on the chemistry test then.

    I also have a writer's bump and fondly recall ink fights. I hope you're feeling better.

  22. Ah, but things alwas look so much better written in fountain pen!

    (Says she who used to earn merit marks for her neatness..)

  23. Not quite sure if I'm rallying or if it's the glass of Pinot, but what they hey...
    Tattie - how nice to meet you! I was wondering when you were going to get up and running again.
    WakeUp - oh, would never have done ink fights. My mother would've killed me!
    M&M - I agree about the ink pen. I still write a lot of cards, and use a very nice Waterman. Much more reliable than a biro. (Do you know that isn't a word over here?)

    Pink eye seemed to be either a bruise or allergy as it's gone. Little one is going to school tomorrow come what may as I need another day in bed I think. Husband's birthday on Thursday so I HAVE to be healthy to go present shopping on Wed. Oy!

  24. Comment in second line should have been "What THE hey" which is what they say here in the US when they don't want to say "hell".

  25. Here was me thinking they still did handwriting in high school, I really need to catch up.

  26. Speaking of high school, did you know that students can now use a calculator on their PSAT and SAT tests? Man do these youngun's have it easy!

  27. I think using a calculator is a double-edged sword as you are then expected to know the theory behind it all. I much preferred just learning how to do it without actually having a clue why!


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