My sister has a theory.
That sentence alone causes dread amongst those of us who know her best, as her theories typically revolve around presidential conspiracies and why the pop group Culture Club is so misunderstood. That being said, I had to chuckle when she complained about my annual tradition of writing columns for my parents on Mother’s and Father’s Day. Her theory, you see, concludes that my columns generate great suck-up points from my parents, and cost me no money whatsoever.
Well, life’s tough, kid. Wear a helmet.
The fact of the matter is that I write those columns to make a public declaration on how I feel about them, and let them know just how appreciated they are by me. I’m happy with where my life is right now, and I owe much of that satisfaction to them. So there really wasn’t any doubt in my mind what I was going to write about this week with Father’s Day coming on Sunday.
That is until I saw an article in the Washington Post last week. Sorry, Dad. I’ll send you a tie.
Post reporter Ian Shapira did an interesting piece explaining how some teachers are trying to prevent classroom disruptions. In one example, a student at Forest Park Senior High School in Woodbridge, Va. “horded his two restroom passes, which, unused, were worth six points of extra credit.”
That’s right. If one could control one’s movements, one moves ahead.
In an attempt to curb students from the shenanigans that sometimes go on in school restrooms, as well as keeping students seated at their desks during the assigned learning time, teachers are providing incentives to their pupils to dot their “i”s and cross their ... well, legs.
I could see my father eating up this philosophy. He’s a results-oriented guy, who believes that sacrifice must be made to achieve goals. He still gets a kick out of thinking back to me vomiting more than a Hilton sister in a VIP room while trying to get through a fifth-grade speech, and loves to offer, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” to anyone who will listen.
Oops, I’m beginning to make this a Father’s Day thing again. Now, back to our story.
Not surprisingly, the bodily function-blocking tactics utilized by teachers and schools are not embraced warmly by everyone. The pursuit of academic intellectualism should not be connected to one’s bladder control, according to the naysayers of Operation Potty Block (my term, not the teachers’).
Kevin Barr, the principal at Georgetown Day School (Washington, D.C.), offered this thought in the Post article: “What’s the correlation between holding your urine and succeeding on a history test?”
To play devil’s advocate, I would suggest that he doesn’t have the same behavioral issue with the students at Georgetown Day School, a prestigious private school, that some of the other schools in the greater D.C. area might have. While kids at Montgomery Blair High School might be doing drugs or fighting in the bathrooms, kids at Georgetown Day are more likely to be discussing the downward trends of their stock portfolios or which weekend they’re all going to get together for their tour of Harvard.
However, if I were to make an argument against Operation Potty Block, I would suggest that it’s wrong to punish all for the sins of a few. Now, I’m all for the time-honored practice in the armed forces to make an entire unit pay if one person screws up in training — but that’s a situation where the unit is supposed to act as one, and a screw-up in combat directly affects the lives of the team. A kid cutting class to smoke in the bathroom doesn’t necessarily prevent another student from succeeding in the classroom. It hardly seems fair to block the honors student from relieving him or herself at the risk of losing grade points.
But, come to think of it, my father always asks, “Did anybody ever tell you life was fair?”
See how I keep coming back to my father’s pearls of wisdom? I’ve tried to get past this holiday without thanking him for being my best friend and role model, but I just can’t do it. So, at this point, close your eyes, little sister. For your own sake.
Dad, I love you. You’ve shown me what hard work looks like, and what respecting other people is supposed to be all about. I thank you for your obnoxious little stories and quotes, and hope in my heart that I one day become half the man you are.
Happy Father’s Day, and may happiness find you every day, big guy.