"Like the study of science and art, accounts of historical events can be intrinsically fascinating. But they have a wider significance. I believe that people are better able to chart their life course and make life decisions when they know how others have dealt with pressures and dilemmas---historically, contemporaneously, and in works of art. And only equipped with such understanding can we participate knowledgeably in contemporary discussions (and decisions) about the culpability of various individuals and countries in the Second World War. Only with such understanding can we ponder the responsibilty of human beings everywhere to counter current efforts at genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to bring the perpetrators to justice."
"...we humans are the kinds of animals who learn chiefly by observing others---what they value, what they spurn, how they conduct themselves from day to day, and especially, what they do when they believe that no one is looking."
----Howard Gardner, from The Disciplined Mind, published in 1999

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Out and About with Neroli; or, Why Johnny Can't Read

On Sunday mornings I have the habit of walking to the store for the Sunday papers, and perhaps some bagels if we are all feeling as if we could use a little smackerel to go with our morning tea.
I picked up four papers: two local, two urban. (No bagels today, thank you.) When scanning the second of the papers at the self-checkout, the lady who manned the self-checkout station said, That one doesn't scan. Just do whatever with it and I'll enter it.
Thank you, I say, all the while thinking amusing thoughts of all that she thinks I might wish to do with the paper while she enters the price into my particular checkout system.
(Look, I might say, I've made a paper hat. A palm tree that expands when you pull on the top of the rolled-paper tube----oops, I need a scissors for that, to cut the fringes for the fronds. Sorry.)
The third paper, dear reader, apparently also does not scan.
How many papers are you buying? my self-checkout friend asks.
When I reply that I am buying four papers, she snorts, dear reader. I like to read differening versions of the same things. That's how I learn. That's how I form ideas and opinions, I say. I'm smiling when I say this because I think that it's a good thing.
You ought to watch Nancy Grace, she says, punching in the price of the third paper.
The fourth paper scanned of its own accord.

4 comments:

min said...

Yes, watching Nancy Grace definitely helps me form opinions!
Be careful of those palm frons, if you pull them too high the paper bases become too thin to support them.

I have lots of neckties said...

Condescending snorts from the checkout person? And a suggestion to watch Nancy Grace for your information instead of wasting time reading? Your checkout lady is obviously a product of (or a convert to) a video generation that can’t absorb information unless it is blinking, moving, or surrounded on all sides by commercials. Pity that person.

Unfortunately, this is also the legacy some parents are passing on to their kids. A case in point is a family I know pretty well. The mom and dad are professionals (one is an elementary school teacher), with two kids. Their older child is 11, and, when asked, admits she doesn’t like to read, cannot name a favorite book, and has no favorite author. Their younger child, 4, is following in his sister’s footsteps by constantly zoning out in front of some TV program rather than doing something else. These kids have tons of computer games and DVDs to keep them zonked and docile, as well as the latest equipment to show these things on. I’ve jokingly referred to the environment these two kids live in as “the best childhood money can buy.”

The last time my family visited this family, I counted a grand total of two books in their home. Yes, two books: one I had brought to read, and the other my daughter had brought to read.

The Artist formerly Known as Purpleworms (!) said...

So why can't check out scanners read? That's what I want to know!

neroli said...

Min, it's funny---Nancy Grace is starting to sprout up like the puppets! As far as palm fronds go, my grip isn't too great, so my "trees" always seem more "bush." Yikes. Help, Nancy?

Lots Of, I had to think for a while---and then it came to me. This checkout person also told me that I couldn't be purchasing croissants because they were rectangular, and not crescent-shaped. Trying to explain that to delineate chocolate croissants v regular croissants, the shaping of them is different, but...
And we do see lots of children with that kind of childhood, don't we? I am glad that there are parents out there who are making the world a positive place one child at a time. Thank you.
May it always be so, and more so, every day!

Artist, hilarious! Now let me wipe my tea-spray from the screen...