Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Wonder Years

Watching repeats of The Wonder Years lit that spark of nostalgia. The trouble with sparks is that they can start fire. And what was a pretty picture burns away to reveal the truth.

I like The Wonder Years for the same reason I like the film Dazed and Confused: it tells the truth.

And what is the truth about school days? Is it that most of us catch ourselves saying that we wish we could go back, and that this momentary desire is based on one tiny spark of nostalgia, one tiny event, we shared with someone?

When we think about events surrounding that one glorious moment we shared with someone, those before, and those after, we get a better scale of things. And really, while school wasn't that bad, it wasn't great either.

Looking back the entire education system, at least in this country, was absurd.

Let's take detention for instance; the single most useless form of punishment known to man. The first time you get detention, you're dreading it. But then, once you experience it, you realise that detention is easier than regular classes. In fact, it's a breeze. You don't want to be there, the teacher doesn't want to be there, and you're given something boring to do. And teacher knows you won't complete the task. Just as he wont finish marking homework. No, he'll read the sports section of his newspaper instead. And you, you'll spend most of the time looking out of the window, thinking "this isn't so bad." Definitely easier than getting the cane.

There's the morning assemblies. At the lower school site we had to stand in assemblies and would often take bets on who would pass out first when the heating was cranked up full. Some teacher would stand at the front, reading some passage from the bible, and then go on about morals and values, probably while wishing he hadn't bet the next month's mortgage on the 3:15 at Newmarket and wondering if he might get to fuck that sexy new German teacher who was fresh out of university and had tits the size of watermelons.

You'd see the metalwork teacher, who was always telling you about health and safety, and that you must wear your goggles, playing around with the carburettor on his car during lunch break, whilst he has a lighted cigarette dangling from his lips. Petrol and lit cigarettes: great combination. What a fine example, teacher.

Some break times, the Geography teacher might confiscate the cigarettes of some kids at the back of the bike sheds. Later on that afternoon, in class, she'd make eye contact with Mark, just as she lit one of the cigarettes she'd taken from him. She'd puff away at it at the front of the class, all the time, watching him, smirking.

And then there were the bullies. The bullies didn't need a reason to beat you up. You'd ask them, "Why me?" And the reply was often just a simple, "Because we want to." They don't realise that one day we all grow up. And that in most cases the bullied do far better than the bullies. Most bullies turn out to be actual cowards in later life. The whole business is sad. For both parties.

So were they The Wonder Years? Sure, they were. At least, I look back and wonder how I got through them. Most of us survived.

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