I see they are blaming the drop in College Board exam scores on this 'decade of distraction.'
They didn't think we had distractions before 1967?
Maybe I didn't spend 15,000 hours in front of our gothic-arched radio with the No-Stoop, No-Squint Magic Eye Tuning by the time I was 16, as today's students are said to do with TV.
But I sure heard a lot of Jack Benny on Sunday nights, having of course postponed homework to the last possible minute of the weekend.
I also heard several thousand hours of Terry and the Pirates, Jack Armstrong the All-American Boy. Little Orphan Annie (which had its own homework of code messages to be translated on your decoder) and Bobby Benson of the B-Bar-B Ranch.
These all came between 5 and 7 on weeknights. Fifteen minutes each. They moved fast. No nonsense. The ads were shorter then.
We all heard the same stuff, but we didn't think about it much at school.
It would be like talking to yourself. But if you missed an evening, you felt like Rip Van Winkle the next day.
Radio was a basic part of our lives. It was the homework that was the distraction.
Being always certain of my priorities, I almost never brought home any homework. We had study hall periods in those days, one or two hours every afternoon unless you had orchestra practice. A lot of people spent the time throwing chalk, but if you could bring yourself to concentrate for a hald-hour or so, you could get everything done and have the whole evening to throw things. Also, the study hall allowed collusion.
None of this calling up your friends at home to compare answers. That was almost as bad as having to ask your parents for help.
Also, when you took your homework home, you had all these books. Old worn and scratched books with a lot of folded papers in them. They were a hostage to fate. You couldn't really put your heart into a pushing matching because someone would snatch your books and throw them on the road. On the roof. Into a snowbank. Play catch with them on the schoolbus. Assignment papers and old quizzes fluttering down.
That's how the books got worn and scratched. From landing on macadam.
This was all in good fun, you understand. It was how we had fun in those days. But eventually it would turn serious and you would have to punch some guy. If you won, it was okay. But if you lost, there was nothing worse than scrambling around picking up your papers and books, sniffling with your bloody nose.
I haven't seen a bloody schoolbook in 25 years.
My kids always had homework. They insisted they were given more than I was. Plus, they didn't have study halls.
I don't know. It didn't look like that much work to me. Two pages of long division? That's nothing. And read? Oh how we had to read. It was duller, too, because they didn't have reading engineers in those days to pre-chew the prose like an Eskimo wife so it would slip down as easy as Jacqueline Susann.
I am trying to remember what rules we had about TV in our house, but it is all kind of vague. I suspect we changed them a lot.
The basic law was that they could do what they wanted until supper, and after that it was homework first, play later.
Since we lived on a long country cul-de-sac the kids had a walk home from the bus, which meant that often instead of watching TV they got involved in some wholesome outdoor project for fight.
There were regular afternoon programs on TV then, but it was black-and-white and snowy, and anyway the serials tended to be self-contained each day and so padded that they lacked the lean intensity of Jack Armstrong.
The main thing I learned about homework and distractions - in whatever decade - is that it is the opposite of Dr. Parkinson's celebrated law that Work Expands: Homework shrinks in reverse proportion to expectations.
The homework which sounds so overwhelming at 4 o'clock, when it is time to walk the dog. Sometimes (like when I got five freebies to the San Meteo County Fair and Floral Fiesta) I have known homework to disappear altogether.
Well. Maybe TV is more addictive now. Maybe it is so distracting that kids can't bring themselves to do any work at all.
Or is it that today's homework isn't distracting enough?