Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Those Weren't the Days

Those Weren't the Days: Apropos of nothing in particular, I highly, highly, highly recommend a remarkably insightful 6-part series on a school year in the lives of middle schoolers, 13: Life at the Edge of Everything.

Read any news story or profile of school kids and invariably you walk away with the idea that they are all hopeless victims of a harsh uncaring society, and inevitably will be led by thoughtless parents and overworked administrators into lives of crime, drugs and degradation. That is, of course, a load of bollocks.

Middle schoolers today are exactly like middle schoolers when I was that age. The kids portrayed here are, for the most part, sharp and healthy. Their parents are all loving though, at times, hapless and helpless. The teachers are caring. The kids are all at the point where things are getting serious with the opposite sex, but they still spend time watching cartoons. They are both overwhelmed and energized by fear and possibility. They twist and turn, fighting to pass their classes and please their parents amid the distractions of their social lives and the need to re-invent themselves constantly. The portrayal is pitch perfect.

This is an old article, from about 6 years ago, (interestingly, the time frame is almost exactly the same time Miss Anna was 13) and it is one of the finest pieces of journalism I have ever read. Set aside some time to read through all six parts. Once you start you'll want to go through to the end -- I guarantee. Nobody gets killed or overdoses or even drops out -- although there is a brief, oblique mention of a pregnancy, it seems fittingly out of place. Nothing lurid happens. No horrible tragedies occur. It's just life, beautifully described.