Today at lunch my co-workers and I got into a lively debate about the state of the public education system. Being the only democrat in a sea of Republicans, I had to hear the ‘benefits’ of school voucher programs and this, that and the other thing blah blah blah. Everyone was screeching, hooting and hollaring about how the schools are unsafe, kids are not being taught when they need to be taught, teachers don’t care and on and on. I maintained that everyone at school is just plain crabby. No one enjoys education anymore. If someone important would ask me (and no one will), I think the degradation of the public school system can be attributed to technology. More specifically, photocopiers.

Now I know what you’re thinking… what on earth does a photocopier have to do with school violence or low test scores? Easy! Quite frankly, teachers and kids aren’t buzzed out on dittos anymore. You remember dittos… those purple inked, chemically laced pieces of paper handed out to all kids in all grades. Teachers wrote or typed on these thick pieces of paper that had ink under them, than ran them through a machine that also had some interesting mix of chemicals to make a batch of copies. Teachers looked forward to making a fifty copies of a pop quiz, quite simply because it was easier than hitting the hootch hidden in the filing cabinet. “Why is Mrs. Pennock so happy? Oh, she’s been making HANDOUTS”. You laugh, but one summer I worked for the school system cleaning up the building and such for the next school year. One teacher had two things in his bottom right hand drawer. A bottle of Jack Daniels and a box of blank ditto papers. The Jack Daniels was full, the box of dittos was EMPTY.

As a senior in high school, I had completed most of my required courses by the end of the first quarter so I spent the rest of the year busying myself in the main office. When I wasn’t making ridiculous announcements over the intercom system or dinking around with the master clock screwing up the bell schedule, I was making hundreds of copies of the “attendance sheet”. This sheet listed all the students that were absent for the day and were distributed after homeroom. Never mind that there were no more than 50 staff members that needed the thing, I made at least twice that, sometimes two sided. Half the time I’d throw them away, but man they did make me feel better. And I never hit anyone in my school. I never felt the desire to go all postal on anyone. I just buzzed on through the day, humming softly and smiling, handing out the attendance sheet. “La la la”. And I can still say to this day that I’ve never done drugs with a straight face.

“Dude, you wanna do some weed out back?”

“Nah, I’m going to work in the main office.”

“What a geek.”

Nancy Reagan was all busy with her “Just Say No” campaign. Had to laugh when the “Just Say No” handouts were distributed on dittos.