the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

My Fellow Students


During the last few days, there has been a lot of controversy over Obama’s speech to our children, the purpose which is  to encourage them to stay in school and learn.   Was it right for a President to speak to schoolkids?   Was it indocrination?   Was he abusing his power as Commander in Chief.   As silly as these questions may sound to many of you, these are legitmate concerns.   I was surprised that so many of my “liberal” friends went into a meltdown over their fellow Americans speaking their minds.   The eggheads and granola-brains came out in force, insulting these for questioning an elected official in public, as if Stalin was still alive.  Some of these “nitpickers” were even labelled as “racists.”

I believe these nitpickers are right, and there is a problem with President Obama addressing our children, but my reason is different than the others.    I believe that Mr. Obama is an honest man, one who cares about our American youth getting a quality education, one who I VOTED for, but he is NOT the right person to be speaking to our children.

Why?  Because he went to elementary school school in Indonesia, avoiding the same traumatic experience that the rest of us had attending American elementary school as children.  He has as much right speaking the truth about our nation’s schools as I do speaking at BlogHer.   What does he know?   Has he ever had to compete with his fellow students to sell the most Scholastic books for some cheapo Radio Shack radio or go to a lame school trip to the Queens Botanical Gardens?  NO!

Who would do a better job speaking to our children?  I would!  I have the experience.  I earned it attending New York public school from kindergarten through 12th grade.  I loved school, with many fond memories.  If I could, I would go back RIGHT NOW, ambling along, carrying my looseleaf notebook with the Aerosmith sticker plastered on front.

I also have a quality that Obama does not.  I am not a politician, so I would not bullsh*t.  Kids can smell bullsh*t.  I would tell our children that yes, they must go to school and learn.  Yes, they will get nowhere in life without an education (They might get nowhere in life WITH an education, even a very expensive one, but I might skip that fact in the initial speech, since I am trying to be somewhat inspirational).

Our educational system can fill your mind with wondrous knowledge and ideas, but is that the full story?  No.  I would look our youth directly in the eyes and tell them what we already know — the years ahead will also be filled with endless boredom.  School in America is 45% learning, 35% sitting around homeroom taking roll call and throwing paper airplanes, and 20% fire drills, led by your “fire captain,” usually the geekiest kid in your class, the least helpful person if there ever was a REAL FIRE.

I would tell our youth that they must pay attention in English class, even though on Twitter, no one cares about grammar anymore!  LOL.

I would tell our youth that it is important to focus on math and science, not because I did, but because our country is a trillion dollars in debt and if we don’t start doing something innovative, the Chinese are going to take over our country by 2025.

I would tell our youth to learn Chinese, for obvious reasons.  Enough with the Spanish and French.  Let’s get serious, folks.  We’re not afraid of Spain or France anymore!  Let’s learn freakin’ Chinese!  I can order my burrito by pointing at the menu.  As for the French — who really gives a sh*t?

I would tell our youth that class attendance is extremely important.  It is a right AND a responsibility.  BUT… and this is a big theoretical BUT, if by chance there is a James Bond marathon on TBS that afternoon, and you sneak out of school early to watch it while your mother is at work, try to do it during the courses that the Board of Education makes you take solely because the teacher’s union can’t fire those teachers because of tenure.  We all know what classes I am talking about.  Wood shop.  Home Economics.  Typing.  Or those time-wasting assemblies where a children’s puppet theater performs a show on “Ethnic Diversity.”

I would tell our youth that there are classes which seem useless when you are young, but which prove important later in life — geometry and algebra, for instance.  When you are in eight grade learning you might ask, “Why do we need to know about parallelograms?”   Years later, when you are taking the audition test to get on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and they ask, “What is a parallelogram?” you will understand the wisdom of your elders.

One personal note.  As a student, I hated gym.  I was not an athletic student.   Today, I believe that physical activity is essential to America.  We have become a bunch of fat slobs, when we should be epitomizing the Greek ideal of being strong in mind and body.  If I were the President of the United States, I would require all children to take gym class.  However, as a compromise to our youth, I would make the pummel horse illegal.  What insane, sadistic individual decided that it would be wise to have scrawny teenagers attempt to jump over one of these monstrosities?

I will never forget the look of fear on my friend, Barry’s face, as Mr. Kaufman, out dim-witted gym/auto shop teacher,  brought us over to the pommel hourse.  He explained how we would run up to the horse, grab the handles and jump over to the other side.  To demonstrate this, he asked Jake, already built like a boxer at age 12, to “show us how it is done.”  I am certain that Mr. Kaufman had never jumped the pummel horse himself.  So, there was NO WAY that Barry and I were EVER going lift our own weight over this thing and make it to the other side without falling SPLAT on our faces.  Luckily, Mr. Kaufman was so dumb that you could ask for a pass to the bathroom and disappear, and he would never remember.  I never did the pummel horse.

That goes to show, students, that despite it all, and everything your teachers say, when it comes down to it, sometimes you need to trust your own instincts, and fight authority.

That is the American way.

Now, let’s go out there and kick the sh*t out of the Chinese!


  1. teahouseblossom

    Amen to that!

    Study Chinese. Learn math and science. End of story.

  2. OHmommy

    POTUS did a great job today. He said nothing more than my Catholic School teachers did. Something every child needs to hear at the beginning of the school year.

  3. OHmommy

    For sh!ts and giggles check out this video that the movie stars made to “Pledge” for change:

    I know we need change in this country. EVERYONE agrees. I agree! But that video is just all kinds of weird to me. The fading squares at the end contributing to Obama’s face. Oh em gee… it’s just weird. IMO.

  4. Marinka

    I’m worried that Mr. Kaufman may have been senile. And hey, it’s not too late! You can do You Tube addresses to kids!

  5. tysdaddy

    Since I’m new here, I almost didn’t detect the fact that your tongue was firmly planted in your cheek for most of this. Funny stuff . . .

    Except the stuff about the Chinese. We are screwed, no doubt . . .

  6. amanda

    Yes, YouTube!

  7. Middle-Aged-Woman

    Looking forward to your YouTube address, Neil. And perhaps you’d have been less frightened of it had you known it was a pOmmel horse, not a pUmmel horse, waiting to beat you into submission.

  8. Loukia

    Neil, if you gave a speech like that you’d scare away the children and no one would want to stay in school! 😉 Loved this!
    By the way, I sucked in math, but did great in all English classes. I also did terrible in gym class. My teacher told me I should be in remedial gym. Nice guy, huh? Anyway. Now I want to write a post about school! And don’t even get me started on the whole French thing…

  9. Dana

    I don’t know what it was about the speech–I read it and kinda like it. But afterwards I had an overwhelming need to go dig out the play, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” so that is what I read last night. The most iconoclastic teacher ever.

  10. Dana

    p.s. I broke my tailbone doing a V-sit in gymnastics, and advanced to utter geekdom in “adaptive P.E.,” where we did archery and played golf. You are in good company.

  11. Gwen

    I went to elementary school in Indonesia and we never encountered a pummel horse. So there were advantages, you see.

  12. churlita

    You’re hired!

  13. NeCole @ Eclectic Ecstasy

    You inspire me (truly) and thanks for making me laugh and softening the regret over my own ranting yesterday. To show you my gratitude, tomorrow I will show you my boobs.

  14. CarlaDelvex

    wow I was going to write something witty here about your blog and how it reminded me of all kinds of PE torture I endured…but I really can’t top the “I will show you my boobs” comment.

  15. anymommy

    Funny, funny post. I hated PE as well. Did you have to make up “routines” on the mats to pass the gymnastics segment. Ugh. Now that’s torturing our youth.

  16. threeboys1mommy

    LOL @ LOL!

    Aerosmith? You’re younger than I thought you were 😉

  17. beth aka confusedhomemaker

    I’d actually pay attention during your speech or at least stay awake. Well mostly awake.

    And the pummel horse should be illegal.

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