Back to School Daze

This time every year families across this great country of ours gather around the kitchen table to conduct a timeless ritual that has changed little since the days of our great-great-great-great grandparents: picking fleas and ticks off the dog. But this doesn't concern us today, since we're more interested in another late summer ritual: getting the kids ready to go back to school. While this may not be nearly as much fun as picking fleas and ticks off your dog, it is a necessity, since in most states it's still illegal to dip children under the age of sixteen, even if you are the parent or legal guardian.It's easy to spot Back to School time. K-Mart's pushing children's clothes. Wal-Mart has big sales on notebooks, pencils and erasers. And Vito's Gun-Mart and Discount Concrete Shoe Palace has an offer you can't refuse for blackjacks, brass knuckles, 38 Specials and those new school uniforms that have become so popular with children and parents alike, bullet-proof vests.As a part of this Back to School ritual, children everywhere routinely ask their parents the same time-honored question: "Can I play with the funny balloons I found under Mom's garter belts in Daddy's dresser drawer?" Then, after you finish explaining to them that those aren't Mom's garter belts, they ask the really tough question: "Why do I have to go to school?"It's simple. First, it's for their own personal safety, for if they spend any more time hanging around the house whining, "I have nothing to do. I'm bored", Mom and Dad will inflict extensive bodily harm and any court in the nation will consider it to be justifiable homicide. Second, it's to get an education, because sooner or later they have to come to the realization that no one likes a stupid professional skateboarder. And third, it's about money.Face it, in kindergarten kids want to grow up to be cowboys and doctors and astronauts and presidents, but by the time they've reached first grade they've wised up and decided they've rather be Bill Gates, Jim Carrey and Shaquille O'Neal. And who can blame them? Bill Gates -- who was beat up by every child, teacher and visitor to his elementary school including Mother Theresa -- became the richest man in the world by being a total geek. Jim Carrey earns $20 million per movie by making the same funny faces Miss Clausen sends you to detention for making. And Shaquille O'Neal? He going to pull in a cool $123 million over the next 7 years playing basketball just like you do during recess. Okay, maybe a little better but, hey!, he's had more practice.(Lest you think all sports are about money, let me point out that Jackie Joyner-Kersee, four-time Olympian and winner of a gold medal in the Lee Press-On Nails 100-Meter Fingernail Scratch, didn't run for money. She was, however, awarded a special card from McDonald's that entitles her to free meals for the rest of her life, the perfect gift for an post-Olympian-no-longer-in-training.)But there's more to school than reading, writing and learning to find porno websites on the Internet. There are after-school activities like marching band, the Debate Club and the Beef Club. That's right, the Beef Club. While there may not be a Beef Club in your school, there is one at East High School in Salt Lake City, UT (motto: "Even we don't like Donnie and Marie.").This came to light last spring when the Salt Lake City School Board voted to ban all nonacademic clubs from the school system because they didn't want a group of students to form a gay-straight student alliance at East High School. The scary part is that by outlawing all nonacademic clubs, they sounded the death knell for the Beef Club.The Beef Club, for those of you who don't spend your vacation at the Great Salt Lake dodging divebombing seagulls, is a social club that meets to "eat steaks and burgers and attend monster truck rallies." It's a question of semantics. In Utah they're called the Beef Club, in the rest of the country they're known as rednecks.But not all students use their hard earned education to raise their cholesterol level while choking on carbon monoxide fumes. Some of them use it to sue Pepsi. John Leonard, a Florida student, recently filed a lawsuit against the soft drink company because it won't give him a Harrier jet like the one in their TV commercial for their Pepsi Stuff promotion. According to the commercial, the jet could be had for 7 million points. When the company told Leonard he could buy Pepsi points for 10 cents each, the enterprising youth found five investors and sent the company 15 points and a check for $700,008.50. Pepsi, claiming the TV commercial was a spoof, is fighting. Leonard is probably trying to get his pilot's license.So let's review what we've learned today. First, Shaquille O'Neal can beat Bill Gates at basketball. Second, Bill Gates doesn't need to save Pepsi points. And third, you need an education so you won't find yourself asking the question "Where's the Beef Club?" in a column, something I swore I wouldn't do but, hey, even my kindergarten teacher said I didn't have any self control.

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