Educating Emmeline

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My wife and I were watching a favorite TV show about doctors and their professional love triangles. In one scene, a patient with head trauma was asked to do some simple math to show his brain still worked.

"Four!" I shouted. "No, three. It's three!"
In every episode, a patient invariably dies, and after the man's poor performance with addition, it was clear.

"That's the one." I said, "Just you watch, that guy is doomed."

My wife's eyes went wide, and I could tell she was impressed by my plot sleuthing.

"The answer," she said, "is seventy-eight."


I was thinking about this exchange while flipping through school applications for my daughter. Emmeline is entering kindergarten next year, but like most families in San Francisco, I have no idea where. The public school down the block is perfect and lovely. The only problem is, more than 1,000 families are vying for about 40 spots. Then there are the private schools. The competition is similar, with the added bonus of a second mortgage.

While it's stressful not to know where she might start her educational journey, part of me is assured by the fact that it actually began long ago, at home, with her parents. After all, it's not like she turns five and we drop her off at the school curb, shouting "fill 'er up!"

While I'm clearly not against dopey TV shows, I've long believed that kids today are missing out. For centuries, kids were given a classical education steeped in mythology, biblical tales and epic verse. Now it seems they know more about Dora than Delilah. I was sure of it: This wouldn't happen to my child. It never mattered which school she got into, because her education would continue, with me.

After watching the doctor show, however, I began to panic. It occurred to me that I've just been filling her ears with stories and waiting for schools to teach her useful things, such as where to put the decibel.

"You just better hope," my wife said, "that she gets into a good school."

With a Perspective, I'm Mike Adamick.