The Loh Life

The kids are all right-ish, part 4: the future, maybe

Why Sandra Tsing Loh is becoming a PTA mom... again.

I am that worst sort of PTA member - the mercenary parent volunteer.  In elementary school, they couldn't get rid of me.  By middle school, I had burnt out.  Totally.  They sent out calls, I never did squat.  But now that 8th grade "Meet the High Schools" night is upon us, and parent volunteers are needed?  Guess who's first in line with her 8 a.m. Starbucks, cheery, as though no break in service ever happened?  Oh yes, I'm a ribbon-wearing first responder because I need the inside dirt on high school.  Now.

I know of a couple of excellent public high schools.  But when, like Napoleon marching on Prussia, I push-pin their locations onto a wall map around the location of my other daughter's middle school, the commute makes triangles and trapezoids and a host of other geometric forms that spell, well, 30 hours a week of driving.  In the dark.

That's if you get in.  The other problem involves charter school lotteries and my own regrettably sieve-like collection of magnet points.  I used to be all over the magnet points, way back in the Clinton era, then I just sort of forgot about them.  Meanwhile, there are these fantastic schools that take like 112 magnet points to get into.  Grandparents have to die and will on their magnet points, like frequent flier miles.  No, but almost.

"But you may not want this anyway!" says my girlfriend Amy.  Her daughter is in a highly-desired enriched studies magnet... and fliers touting college prep are already going home in sixth grade.  "College prep!" she wails.  "In sixth grade!"

"I don't know if we're even going to get to seventh," I admit.  "My 11-year-old has so much homework - 20 hours one weekend - I'm basically doing it for her.  Last Saturday, I actually created a hand-drawn 30-page study guide on circuits, resistors, and electrical voltage.  Or, as we like to call it, 'potential drops.'  That's a joke for some of us in the know -"

"Why are we prepping them for college anyway?" Amy asks.  "Doctors are saying they make far less than they used to.  Lawyers are saying there are no law jobs.  I think what our kids need to learn is global citizenship, entrepreneurship, and web design."

"Sure," I say, "but even in this era of iPads you still have to be able to process huge amounts of boring writing, just like in the old days.  How else do you understand health insurance, or 73-page brochures on, like, retirement benefits?"

But our daughters are just 11!" she moaned.

"It's all my daughter can do to not pick her nose with her mechanical pencil!"

... Where perhaps she'll find some magnet points.


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