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Parental Culture Shock

Who is supposed to help parents when they have to help with the kids homework? I still have fairly clear recollections of when I matriculated form elementary to junior high. I walked or rode my bike about a mile to a three-story building on the high plains of west Texas.

Seventh grade had all of the usual subjects. Algebra, English music, the inevitable physical eduction class were offered along with whatever was deemed necessary for a well-rounded education. That was the year we were expected to learn how to diagram sentences. Misplaced modifiers and dangling participles were about as complicated as life got for a 13-year-old. I never realized what a sheltered existence that I must have lived.

Sunday night, I had my eyes opened by my seventh-grade daughter. She announced that all of her weekend homework was completed except for a short speech due Monday. Expecting the usual “what I did on my summer vacation,” I sat down to give her the benefit of my years of worldly experience. I was never so shocked as when I learned her assignment. “Deliver a five-minute speech on euthanasia, either pro or con.”

It literally took my breath away. Fifteen years ago, euthanasia was a subject that was rarely spoken out loud, much less considered a subject for junior high students. Medical doctors knew of it but rarely spoke of it. Theologians might discuss it, but only behind the locked doors of cloistered walls. You didn’t talk about euthanasia with your seventh grader.

Apparently, somewhere, someone put education in turbo-drive while I wasn’t looking.

aspirin“Why ever did you choose such a subject,” I asked my daughter. “Dad,” my young person replied, “it was euthanasia or abortion and everybody else was doing abortion.” At that point, I went to the kitchen for a glass of cold water and two aspirin. Next came two of the longest hours of my life.

My daughter and I discussed the meaning of euthanasia and its moral ramifications. We talked about the role of God in the grand scheme of things. We talked about quality of life and the extension of life by artificial means. My daughter knew all about “pulling the plug.” She now knows about assisted suicide, murder without malice, and pardons for intentional homicide.

We took the opportunity to discuss the moral values imposed by religious instructions and the changing mores in modern society. We used scripture, last Sunday’s sermon by our pastor and the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary to round out my daughter’s assignment.

She retired to her room to make out the first draft of the speech. I turned on the news channel, but I did not see a thing. If these are the things that my child is learning in the seventh grade, what does high school hold for her? I dare not think about college! She returned to the living room after a while and delivered a five-minute speech worthy of an undergraduate humanities class.

I don’t have any concern for my daughter’s abilities. It is her poor old dad for whom we should be concerned.

Has anyone seen my split infinitive? I think I lost it somewhere on my way to philosophy class.

Written by the late James R. May. Originally published in the Oologah Lake Leader, circa 1991. 


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