Your tax dollars at work.
If you asked me to give you one reason I regret moving beyond middle school in the course of my education, it would probably be because I have to work now. In middle school, grades didn't even have the illusion of mattering, whereas in high school I knew that all it took was one grade below a B to completely throw my life off the rails by sending me to a purgatory of mediocrity in some God-forsaken state school. Here in this God-forsaken state school, professors are quick to remind their classes that there is absolutely none of the precious wiggle room we so cherished in our secondary educations - one slip up, one folly, one misplaced comma, and poof; there goes 40% of your grade. There is no extra credit! There are no do-overs! Welcome to the jungle! In middle school, homework assignments were simple, in middle school, girls were vaguely interesting but still too scary for me to even attempt to embarrass myself in front of, and in middle school, we did jack shit for the last month of the school year.
Now, this is just a guess, but you probably saw The Sandlot a lot in middle school, most likely within a few weeks of the end of the school year. You saw it on the day that your teacher rolled out of bed, poured an extra bottle of Smirnoff on his Bran Flakes, and ignored his latent thoughts of suicide for long enough to decide that this dreams of being an inspiring, creative educator were never going to come true. He had realized that, if 13 year olds were hyperactive and very nearly unteachable in the dead of winter, there was about as much chance of him getting through to them in the face of summer as there was of him ever showing up to work sober again. Thus, he swung by Hollywood Video on the way to that festering citadel of education and rented every teacher's panic button: The Sandlot. It's clean, it's entertaining, and it lasts about as long as a standard middle school class period - it is what every teacher has in their back pocket for the day when there is no knowledge left to impart. It is simultaneously a white flag and a "Fuck you, kids!", a spiteful surrender from someone who has babysat the most intolerable of human beings for an excruciating seven hours a day for a full eight months, and simply doesn't have the fight to keep going for one more - certainly not for $32,000 a year. Language Arts, Math, Science, Health - from May 14th until June 14th, all of these classes were The Sandlot 101.
Of course, in middle school we were really buckling down by watching The Sandlot, because in elementary school we'd quit doing anything even remotely educational a full three months before the end of the year. We watched Disney movies, we had ice cream parties, entire days of recess - people are getting stupider because teachers have less and less of the perseverance necessary to teach for a full nine months. As our teachers ran out of movies for us to watch and paper for us to fingerpaint on, they grew increasingly desperate until the activities became little more than school-sanctioned vandalism. On the last day at my elementary school, our teachers sprayed shaving cream on our desks and encouraged us to spend as long as possible wiping it around our workspace. Why? Because it's there! Because shaving cream is cheap, and kids are stupid, and we've got to do something with them before we give the little bastards back to their parents for three months! What else do you want? Here's some mercury! It's a science lesson! Here's a loaded gun! We can learn about survival of the fittest!
I had been so conditioned toward laziness by the public school system that when I reached high school I fully expected to be rubbing shaving cream on pretty much any stationary object I could find for the last few weeks. You can only imagine my shock when I found out that right up until the bell rang on the last day of school I'd be doing work of some sort. My high school teachers were made of tougher stuff than the elementary and middle school teachers - like evil cyborgs or Hilary Clinton, they refused to give up until the fight was absolutely and completely over. We took tests. We gave speeches. We wrote research papers. By and large, we actually did schoolwork for the entire time we were at school, and I for one felt cheated by this. To be fair, though, the last week of senior year before graduation was pretty fun, because at that point the senior class had realized that we outnumbered the entire school staff and local police department by a good 100 people, and therefore could do pretty much as we damn well pleased with our last few days of public education. Yes, I most certainly did play golf on the baseball diamond when I should have been in speech team - you must understand that I had become accustomed to vandalzing some part of the school after all those years of rubbing shaving cream on things, and since I couldn't find a can of shaving cream, defacing the baseball diamond was my next best choice.
Here in college, finals week can either be pretty laid back or a torturous descent into madness. Fortunately, I consider just about every day to be a torturous descent into madness, so I've been able to weather the storm pretty well over the past few terms. The real beauty of college finals is that the only time you have class during finals week is on the day of your final; you go to the class, you take the test, and then you go on your merry way, no shaving cream necessary. Once you're finished with all your tests, you're free to go home. Now, this all sounds wonderful at first - a week without classes or homework, and nothing to do but drugs? Yeah, sure, seems great, until you consider my position: I have only one final. This final is on the last day of finals week. For the next five days, I get to sit around watching my friends go off and start their summers while I rot in this fetid dormitory, waiting to take my economics final so I can go home and not have to share a bathroom with a bunch of guys who shed like goddamn Labradors.
So while you're off enjoying your summer, free of final exams or the nondescript B.O. of the University of Oregon, please think of me - sleeping all alone in an empty dorm on the Thursday night before my final and expecting a reenactment of The Shining at any moment. The last week of my school year will, in fact, be the least active of any school year yet, because as I'm not required to be here my professors aren't compelled to entertain me. For habit's sake, I'm going to spend the next few days sitting in my room watching The Sandlot over and over again while covering everything in sight with shaving cream.
Truman Capps is pleased to have made it through an entry chock full of Sandlot references without mentioning Smalls, or the detrimental effect his actions have on his friends.