Ask Bitch'in Suburbia: Back to School 2015

Hey kids — it’s that time of year: More pencils, more books, and presumably more teachers’ dirty looks. But then again, who could blame them? In a world of Common Core, overly involved parents, undersized budgets, tests to teach to, and a lack of necessary tools (especially time and trust, not to mention those new fangled devices called computers), it’s impossible not to look at least a little pissed off.  Lucky for everyone, your friendly neighborhood Bitch’in Suburbia has the cheat sheet ready with all the snappy answers you need for your back to school questions. Just raise your hand and read on…

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia,

I have this recurring nightmare: I’m in a classroom, and the teacher hands out a test. Everyone around me dives right in, but I can’t read the words. Then the bell rings, and I’m still not done. I wake up every morning in a sweat, and I barely have the energy to get my kids off to school. What do you think it means?

Signed, Sleepless in Sonoma

Dear Sleepless,

That’s not a nightmare: it’s YOUR LIFE and believe you me, it is a test! Forget whatever lackluster academic career you had; wake up and smell the #2 pencils! It’s all on you to make sure that your children kill it in every single grade, from Pre-K to 12th. And by “kill it,” I do mean that literally — they must be prepared to smoke everyone in their path on their way to the top. You can always serve the jail time for them — after all, aren’t you already doing their math homework for them? Same-same. So fork over your life, your wallet, your brains, your dignity, and everything you have so that you — I mean, your student — can be successful. If you’re dedicated enough, your child will make it all the way through college and out the other end to the inevitable unpaid internships, soul-crushing hunt for work that pays a living wage, and perhaps most importantly, to being the best possible adult roomie for you! So dust your morning Wheaties with some ground-up Adderall, and focus on the prize: your #1 student with 2400 on the SAT, a 36 on the ACT, and a full-blown panic disorder by second grade. And there’s a bonus for you, too: no more sleeping, and no more pesky nightmares.

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia,

My child is a straight-A student. But this year, she has all AP classes, and I’m hearing one teacher in particular is very challenging. Should she drop that class? I’m debating it, because if she gets a B (gulp), it’s still a weighted B, and so that’s like an A, right? What should I do?

Signed, A+ Mom

Dear A+,

First off, I’m not sure where you got this ridiculous idea that a B in an AP class is like an A… I mean it is, but then again, it’s so not. Similarly, how could you possibly consider scaling back, when your daughter already has the exact right schedule with all AP classes? Please tell me that it includes AP Mandarin, AP Post-Calculus, AP Pre-Med, and AP Metaphysics. The last one should help you both through the existential crisis that follows, where every single night you contemplate your being, existence, and reality, and come to the same depressing conclusion. Be sure to have matching pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and hari-kari knives on hand, just in case. As for the challenging teacher, I have no words — literally, you’re acting like the teacher matters at all when your daughter has you. Amiright?

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia,

I know that extracurricular activities are really important for college, but I have a problem with my kid: he sucks at sports. I mean, I feel bad saying that, but it’s true. We’ve tried Little League, soccer, basketball, Pee Wee Football, archery, tennis, swimming — even freakin’ pickle ball! (I hear there are scholarships for pickle ball, right?) I’m worried if I don’t get him in the system now, he’ll never catch up come middle school. Any thoughts on a game plan for junior?

Signed, Defeated Dad

Dear Defeated,

First off, OF COURSE there are scholarships for pickle ball. And archery. And lots of “loser” (your word, not mine… wait, I guess that is my word) athletics, which your kid might be able to master. As you know, youth sports are all about the parents’ needs, so there’s really no harm in pushing your 90 lb. weakling toward a career in tackle football. But then again, the non-athletic types (otherwise known as nerds) are having their heyday in our digital world. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos are just a few geeks-turned-Billionaire-Boys-Club-members. So give the kid a jumpstart and take a screwdriver to your computer, leaving the bits and pieces strewn around his bedroom. If he reassembles it to be, say, a killer robot, you’re in business. If he ignores the chips ‘n bits, lock him in his room and never let him out. Because if he’s not a jock or a geek, that leaves freak, and frankly I’m not sure to do with kids that don’t fit neatly in a box. Maybe bench him for life? Good luck, Coach!

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia,

Every year I volunteer for PTA and all of the related fundraisers, and I find it very rewarding — especially for my children, because everyone knows me and if I ask a favor (or two), it’s a snap getting results. But over the summer I took a full-time job, and I’m worried I won’t have the same kind of time to devote to volunteering. Can you please reassure me that pitching in is optional, and that nothing will change for my children with me less involved?

Signed, PTAnonymous

Dear PTAnonymous,

In a word: you’re screwed. (Ok, that’s two words, but I think you needed that kind of clarity.) So stop reading my column, march yourself into your boss’s office, and tell him or her that you need a “flexible work schedule.” You can work at your job from 3:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m., take a break for the morning so you can personally drive the carpool, attend those 9:00 a.m. PTA meetings that are so convenient for everyone, and then spend some time in the classroom. While the kids are in PE and at lunch, you can go back to work for two or three hours. Just be sure to return to school for pick-up and the afternoon shuffle getting your kids to tutoring, sports, or other enrichment AND allow for plenty of time to whip up a healthy dinner that takes into consideration everyone’s dietary restrictions (lactose intolerence, gluten allergies, plain old picky pains in the butts). You can finish your workday from around 7:00 p.m. until midnight (with a short break to get everyone to bed, make lunches for the next day, throw in some laundry, and tidy up) and then you’ve given your boss the requisite 10 or 11 hours a day for work. See, you can do it all!

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia,

I was just reviewing my daughter’s syllabi, and I am very concerned that they’re not covering the classics. Who should I complain to — the teacher? The principal? All the way up to the superintendent? What would you recommend?

Signed, Worried in Walla Walla

Dear Worried,

First off, let me just say GOOD FOR YOU for paying careful attention to your daughter’s curriculum — teachers LOVE parents that question their carefully planned coursework, and it’s even better if you skip talking to them about your concerns and go right to the top. I applaud your instinct on that note. As for your worries about not covering the classics, well, just a gentle prod here: how will your child be a better test-taker if she reads Jane Austen? Common Core says that reading imaginative fiction has nothing to do with learning how to read and write. Austen says, “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” So riddle me this: who is setting the curriculum nowadays? I think the prejudice goeth before the pride, if you know what I’m saying. (I’m not sure what that means either, except that it’s high time that kids write papers in math and PE class, and that’s what Common Core is all about! I hope you see that on your daughter’s syllabi!)


Please note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are satirical, just in case you couldn’t tell, and also just in case my kids’ teachers are reading this. (Just kidding! Not really… ) Also, I am very aware that being satirical about education is something that we’re free to do in this country, and that is honestly a precious gift.

A word from the non-satirical Bitch’in Suburbia: Earlier this summer, I had the honor and privileged of hearing Malala Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, speak. If you don’t know Malala’s story, in short she has been an activist for education for girls her whole life. In 2009, as the Taliban took control of her village in the Swat District in Pakistan, 10-year-old Malala wrote an anonymous blog for the BBC about her views on education and life in general. Her father, a social and educational activist who ran a public school, was also very outspoken about his views, and in short order, both Malala and Ziauddin began receiving death threats. While the international community was celebrating Malala, the Taliban decided she needed to be removed. In October, 2012, when the 15-year-old Malala was on a bus heading to school, a masked gunman entered the vehicle, asked for her by name, and shot her in the face. Miraculously, she survived, and the actions of that terrorist elevated Malala’s profile and spread her story worldwide. In 2014 she became the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize, and today she is a prominent global advocate for the millions of girls being denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors. It was both humbling and eye-opening to hear Malala speak; if you haven’t checked out her address to the UN in 2013 or her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, do it now. You’ll enjoy Ziauddin’s TED Talk, too. They are an exemplary father-daughter team — Ziauddin’s values inform Malala’s, but at no time does he confuse her personal mission with his own. Even as she lay dying, he and his wife and Malala’s mother, Tor Pekai Yousafzai, chose to focus on the importance of the work Malala had taken on rather than fretting about their decision to give their daughter the wings to fly. (Or, perhaps more accurately, applauding when she herself discovered that she had her own set of wings.) For them, it was a simple statement of faith to never look back. For me, it was a mind-blowing statement on the power of unconditional love and support, and the transformative properties of education.

SOOOOO if you want to teach your children anything this fall, take them to see He Named Me Malala, coming from Fox Searchlight in October. You can also read I Am Malala, and check out Malala’s website and the Malala Fund.

For now, enjoy the trailer and happy back to school!

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