Tuesday, October 30, 2007


"We're all disturbed! And, if not, why not?! Doesn't this blend of blindness and blandness wanna make you do something crazy?! Then, why not do something crazy?! It makes a Hell of a lot more sense than blowing your fucking brains out. You know, go nuts, go crazy, get creative. You got problems? You just chuck 'em--nuke 'em! They think you're moody, make 'em think you're crazy. Make 'em think you might snap! They think you got attitude? You show 'em some real attitude!"
-Mark Hunter, from the movie "Pump Up The Volume"

When you grow up, your heart dies.
-Allison from the movie "The Breakfast Club"

I know I've done a Halloween story already, but this one will come from a different direction. You'll also note that somewhere further down this article seems to have taken off in a totally different direction from where it begin.

Maybe it did and maybe it didn't. I'll leave you to judge that. But really who cares?

I remember as a kid Halloween was about the most fun night of all. You got to roam the neighborhood, free as a bird, dressed up as who knows what, playing out some fantasy, getting lots of candy, pulling off a few tricks on some local grouch, and generally having a ball.

In fact, back then there were lots of things you got to go do that what were fun that have gone by the wayside.

Today everyone is afraid of everyone else. The government has decided that virtually anything a kid might do is dangerous. The schools have decided to be politically correct and not offend anyone and to make sure only serious studies go on there (hell, even beloved recess is almost, if not entirely, gone). All forms of play is now organized. Mom drives you to it. There is an adult in charge. There are coaches.

What has happened to letting kids be kids? What's happened to imagination? Why is everyone sitting on their asses playing video games? How come we even wonder about childhood obesity? I mean between the supersized fast foods and the lack of real outdoor play, what do y'a think is gonna result?

I don't want to come off like every other "older generation" lamenting about how great it used to be compared to today. That's not my beef at all.

I'm just saying isn't growing up supposed to be about imagination, challenge, getting away with stuff, taking some chances, super highs and super lows, love lost, sneaking out? Aren't little kids supposed to play and have fun?

At least, in the inner city some kids still go out and shoot hoops. Out in the suburbs, if anyone gets out at all, it's all about soccer practice and other organized after school activities designed by adults seemingly to insure that their children stay safe and don't have a good time.

And then there is our attempt to force teenage kids into being...something other than what they might be.

In the schools, especially the high schools, there are more rules than ever. Most of them are stupid. Most of them are designed to stop teenagers from being teenagers...god forbid.

Don't want a kid "acting out."

Don't want a kid to be different then everyone else.

And the kids that defy all those dumb ass rules are promptly labeled as freaks, sluts, and troublemakers.

Thank god for those freaks, sluts, and troublemakers.

Maybe if more kids got to blow off some steam on their own, less kids would turn inward and assault their school. Think about it.

Oh, and by the way, it was from that pool of so-called freaks, sluts, and troublemakers that later rebels were born.

And without some rebellion, I mean, like man, dude what is there anyway?

The following is from
New West Post. It's a little more tame.

Of Halloweens Past
By Joan McCarter, 10-30-07

My older sister took to school like a fading, B-list movie-of-the-week actor takes to “Dancing with the Stars.” Growing up on our ranch, 10 miles from anywhere (and that particular anywhere being pretty damned sparse itself) she had a lonely young existence, with a little brother who was distinctly uninterested in being what she wanted of him--her personal doll--and me as a baby sister whose luster didn’t really last. School for those first few months was a revelation and a wonder and the best thing ever.

And then she found out about Halloween.

Mom still laughs about the indignation she faced late one October afternoon when my sister got off the school bus, marched up to her, and demanded to know precisely why she had spent the first six years of her life completely in the dark about something as incredible as Halloween. You could actually walk up to people’s front door, demand candy, and get it. Better yet, you got to dress up in disguise to do it! Could there be anything cooler? And how in the world could our mother justify withholding this critical fact from her?

So the gig was up, and that confrontation ushered in a new era for Mom. She spent every October 31st loading various and sundry kids from our end of the county in the station wagon and hauling us into town for trick-or-treat. (Mom always had Halloween duty. Dad took on the winter task of tracking the school bus down when it slid off the road and getting us all to or from school.) We’d don our hard plastic masks (the ones with eye holes that you could never quite see out of, that got hot and uncomfortable because you couldn’t breathe through those tiny nose holes, and that the elastic always broke on), pillowcases in hand, and troop through Fairfield’s dozen streets demanding our booty. Mom followed behind, heater running full blast, so that every few houses we could jump in the car to thaw out before soldiering on.

The first snowfall of the season almost always happened on Halloween, which of course meant that whatever really cool costumes we had devised for the year would have to be covered up by our winter coats. It got to the point where the default choice for Halloween night was “hobo,” because we could just layer up with Dad’s old clothes and an old coat and not face the ridiculous prospect of having to be a princess or a gypsy or a pirate in a parka.

The real costume, then, had to shine in all its glory at school. We would spend weeks planning for what we would go as, the excitement of Halloween tinged with the knowing that this was just the beginning of the really fun part of school. The Halloween party we had in each classroom (one of the mothers who didn’t have to drive her progeny all over the county that night) would bring cupcakes and apple cider. We’d bob for apples, play suitcase relay and vote on best costumes. The Halloween party at school marked the big kick-off for the holiday season, when you would start the lookout for the Sears toy catalog and the weekly art sessions would be comprised of making ever more inventive “gifts” out of seeds and macaroni and gold spray paint.

Sadly, that’s not Halloween any more, at least not in Idaho’s Treasure Valley schools.

There is a growing murmur about the quality of public education in this country, and people at every level are looking at what can be sacrificed to make learning more efficient and effective. Halloween was an easy choice. Costumes and candy distract from the ultimate mission of school — education.

That mission has never changed, but society has. In an increasingly global culture driven by competition, there is a lot more pressure for kids to perform. No Child Left Behind has altered curriculums and academic schedules accordingly, requiring teachers to change the way they teach.

“You have children in school for such a short period of time that you have to make sure that time isn’t wasted,” said Allison Westfall, public information officer for Nampa School District.

She said Nampa schools decide individually how to deal with issues like Halloween, but most opt to scale it back in favor of after-school festivities that “protect instructional time."…

“The academic rigor is a lot higher than it has ever been,” echoed Tricia Stone, principal of Lincoln Elementary in Caldwell. “We don’t have time to stop over many hours to give a day to a holiday like that."…

“We’re answerable to the taxpayers. We want to make sure that we are making the best use of our time at school and making it as full of instruction as we can,” said Nelda Reed, school counselor at West Canyon Elementary in the Vallivue district. “We do have a time for kids to dress up, but they’re supposed to dress up as a character from a book that they’ve read and have that book in hand as part of their costume. The focus again is trying to tie Halloween into literature and reading but still allowing a little fun.”

I’m thinking maybe we lost sense of what “fun” is somewhere down the line. Ok, granted, I was the kind of dorky kid who would have loved dressing up as a character from my favorite book, but turning Halloween into an assignment?

All in pursuit of cramming as much into kids’ brains as they can to pass the federally mandated exams so the schools can continue to get funding so that they can continue to cram information for the next exam into the next bunch of kids’ brains. All for a program, No Child Left Behind, that has seemed to make no real progress, and might even have set back student performance, according to at least one peer-reviewed study.

There are a few things being lost in this “academically rigorous” approach to educating our grade schoolers. Of course unstructured, unscripted fun has gone out the window; the fun of socializing in new and different ways with classmates, “playing hooky” while still in school, and actually having a good time, making school a place that kids actually look forward to going to. The larger and sadder loss is the imagination and the creativity--for the teachers as well as the students--that comes from creating and having an hour or two off at school to play act, to play games, to just be a kid with all the other kids that they’re spending 6 to 8 hours a day with.

Call me nostalgic, call me old-fashioned, or call me a fogey. But I’m firmly in the “it was better in my day” camp when it comes to Halloween. It’s the one day in the year when kids really get to rule and let their kid selves run free as whatever they can imagine themselves as being. I say let the kids have Halloween.

Editor's note: Joan McCarter's weekly blogs are part of a new feature on NewWest.Net/Politics called "Diary of a Mad Voter," a group blog, published in partnership with the Denver Post's Politics West intended give a glimpse into the hearts and minds of several independent-minded voters and thinkers in the Rocky Mountain West in the '08 election cycle.

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