Once upon a time, after the echoes of the dinosaur footsteps had faded but before the internet, the Good Idea Fairy struck my school like a ICBM with a payload of weapons-grade stupidity. I came home, rather excited, because my teacher had announced that we weren't going to have to do any of that boring and pointless memorization stuff - no multiplication tables, no periodic table of the elements, no learning to write in cursive.
No, we were learning New Math, and all I had to do was figure out how to make the teacher think I felt good about learning in order to make a grade. Emotional manipulation with a "self-esteem" jargon? I have two X chromosomes; I was born for that! School was going to go from kinda easy but boring to a fun time figuring out just how much I could shovel BS and make fun of my teacher without getting caught!
My mother and father didn't seem to think this was a great plan. That Saturday morning, my father rousted me out of bed, and hauled me off to the track. "I need to stay in shape for PT, and you need to memorize your multiplication tables. Your mission is to chant the entire multiplication table to twelve times twelve while you pace me around the track."
"But dad, teacher says they're pointless!"
"I don't care what your teacher says. I'm your father. You WILL pace me and go through the entire multiplication table before you get breakfast." Dad has this way of using a soft voice and a dead-level tone to make people with shiny bits on their collars and chevrons on their sleeves decide to obey immediately - and they weren't even under threat of getting spanked! I knew this conversation was going nowhere fast, and was likely to turn out even worse if I pushed than the time he told me "fair" was a bogus word and I was not to use it in his hearing again.
I don't even remember the teacher from that school. I do remember many mornings of thinking hard while in motion, the dew on the grass, crunch of gravel underfoot, stitch in my side trying to keep up mentally and physically. There is no such thing as fair, eleven times eleven is 121, Yttrium comes after Strontium (both of which ignite on contact with air), excuses are never an acceptable substitute for success, if you aren't killed by a depleted uranium round, a wet bandanna over the face will filter out most of the trash from getting in your lungs, never disparage your cooks, janitors, or secretaries, twelve times six is 72, the noble gasses are largely inert without a lot of work, wear tall boots in rattlesnake country, keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to make your shot, never say "can't" when you mean "don't want to", and twelve times twelve is 144, which is a gross, but not the same as gross profit.
Thanks, dad. You taught me more than I'll ever be able to say.
I love you, too.