545. Skipping School

In a recent essay, I wrote about the fury I felt when my daughter played hooky. That fury was not typical of me, and I wish I could rewind to that time and tape over it (and then fast forward to now). My views on skipping school are close to the views of Mark Twain; I think it can be responsible for lots of fond memories. And it gets people ready for life; I’ll bet most people are skipping school today, and do it most days. They’ve graduated, dropped out, or never gone to school. I’ve only actually skipped school once, by tricking my mother into believing that I was sick. At least, I think I was tricking her. But maybe she knew I was faking, and was playing along. Maybe she was playing hooky vicariously.
Playing hooky can be a very creative and educational activity. The term itself is about what someone is NOT doing (going to school), but there’s a universe of things one can do while not going to school. We send our children to school before they know enough to decide whether they want to go there, and while many of them look forward to school and enjoy it, there are also many who don’t. And many of those children have better ideas about how to spend their time than a lot of the ideas that fill up plan books.
There are plenty of teachers who try to make school as much fun as Huck Finn’s adventures. They provide fascinating materials, field trips, games, and more, hoping that every child will find some reason to be glad to be in school. And some teachers seem to succeed. But even in the classrooms of the most creative teachers I’ve known, there’s still magic in the air about : in the afternoon, when it’s time for school to end. And there’s more magic on Friday afternoon, and even more the day before a vacation.
As a teacher, I tried for years to get school to be more fun than no school. For the most part, I don’t think I succeeded. I don’t think many teachers do. Children had fun in my class, and we had our adventures, but neither the children nor I ever got to the point of wishing we had school every day. We consistently looked forward to our late afternoons and evenings, weekends, holidays, and vacations. That’s when we could do what we REALLY wanted to do.
Now that I’m retired and can play hooky any time I want, I hardly ever want to. But I know many children who want to. I wonder whether there’s a way that could work. I’m sure it would be very hard for a child to secretly go down the Mississippi on a raft; the authorities have gotten very efficient and effective at finding out about things like that. Huck didn’t have to worry about police helicopters and the like. But I hope children still have ways to play hooky.

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