Al Batt: What did you learn or forget during school today?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I knew it was coming.

Al Batt

It was an after-school special.

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I should have been prepared, but I never was. My young mind had been cast adrift in rough seas and it was easier to don a cloak of panic.

“What did you learn in school today?”

Mom asked me that every time I came home. Why couldn’t she have asked me what my favorite dinosaur was?

That was a lot of pressure. There might have been flop sweat. I tried to be a successful kid, but I didn’t have enough bandwidth. There were days when I hadn’t learned a thing. I’d even forgotten things I’d learned earlier. Forgetting is a lifelong characteristic of a human. I forgot one of my mittens at school regularly. I thought if one hand was warm, the other would be, too.

The bus ride home had softened my brain, leaving it filled with unrelated items like a cluttered junk drawer. Looking back, I should have told her that the internet had been down my entire time in school.

I wasn’t without accomplishments. I was nearly housebroken and always came promptly to the table when called if we were having something I liked. I knew my name even if I didn’t always spell it correctly. I rarely missed the school bus and didn’t miss it at all during the summer.

What to tell her? The secret to answering questions is to know what to leave out. I hadn’t learned much, but I made some good contacts. I spent the afternoon wondering who would win a fight between the monkey bars and the teeter-totter. The teeter-totter taught me life had its ups and downs.

I’d learned a pencil sharpener is a relaxing form of exercise and great entertainment. I reduced a Ticonderoga #2 yellow pencil to a fine point down to the metal band protecting the eraser. That welcomed daydreaming. When I should have been tracing my hand on paper to produce a turkey, I daydreamed about being named the U.S. ambassador to Idaho one day. 

I learned to be myself, everyone else is taken. When I stop to think, I should always 

Remember to start again. I may want to be number one, but Winnie the Pooh is happy being number two.

No one likes being called dumb or stupid, especially when acting dumb or stupid. Knowledge makes one certain, wisdom makes one uncertain. You don’t know what you don’t know until you know you don’t know it. I don’t know if that’s true.

The school had two kinds of food — awful and just as awful, and both were delicious. 

There is no perfect amount of anything. Teachers don’t have eyes on the back of their heads. They have class tattletales.

Mark Twain might have said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured,” but it takes a black eye or a bloody nose for a boy to realize that.

Unsupervised recess is fun.

I shouldn’t wait until the last minute to do my homework. I should give it at least five minutes.

“How I spent my summer vacation removing ticks,” was not the best paper I’d ever read to the rest of the class, even if I found it riveting.

While pointing may not be polite, it’s extremely effective. 

If I’m going to talk to myself, I should either do it by myself or wait for the cellphone to be invented.

I knew which breakfast cereal box had the best prize because I’d taken an independent survey of classmates.

Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem states that within any axiomatic mathematical system there are propositions that cannot be proved or disproved on the basis of the axioms within that system; thus, such a system cannot be simultaneously complete and consistent. At least that’s how I remember it, but I learned that in the second grade, so my memory might be incomplete.

The point is, if there is a point, I could have answered with any of those things when my mother asked me what I’d learned in school today. Each would have been an appropriate response. But what did I reply every time Mom asked? 


Al Batt’s column appears in the Tribune every Wednesday.