My kids go a great school. Exhibit A: my wife and I came out of Parents Night saying how we wanted to go back to middle school. My seventh grade daughter and her cohort are in something called the Futures Academy, which is a novel approach to integrated, project-based learning. The teachers are smart and cool. The projects they’ll work on, like growing their own food in collective plots, participating in a mock refugee camp, all seem remarkable. They have blue swivel chairs.
My daughter seems to rate things pretty high, so far. I would certainly know, otherwise. And the next night, following the parent welcome, was the middle school dance. Alas, this was not well reviewed. I suppose, that not unlike when I was young the dance is built up to be something big, and then turns out to be decidedly flat. The only middle school dance I remember, back in suburban New York, had me pushing the DJ all night to play “Rock and Roll High School” by the Ramones. I had the album, you see. I brought it for this purpose. When he finally accommodated my incessant nagging, he put the crummy cover version on the wrong side of the LP on and I was aghast, tarred with having subjected everyone to a notably weak song.
My daughter and her friend were excited to go. I was tasked with taking them over. I wasn’t sure if they were going to “prepare” themselves. They headed out to the car in tee-shirts and flip flops. I inquired if they weren’t going to change and they assured me that this was a stupid question.
The debrief, later that night confirmed my assumptions: “How was it?” “It was boring.” “Why? Did you dance?” “No.” “Did any of the guys dance?” “No. They just stood there.” “Oh. What about the girls?” “We would have danced but the music was awful.” “Couldn’t you request songs?” Yeah, but they didn’t play them.” “And the teachers?” “They just stood on the side, watching. They were so annoying.” Sounds a lot like our dances, minus “Stairway to Heaven.”
I am very glad that this Futures Academy has taken middles school curriculum into the 21st century. I enjoy imagining my daughter in a blue swivel chair. But it would appear that middle school dances still await their rendez vous with a reimagined future.