Culture Shock


     Ever notice how some adults seem to take pleasure in stopping other people from enjoying themselves?  Take parents, for instance.  Sometimes it seems like no is their favourite word.  No, you can’t have a puppy.  No, you can’t have cookies before dinner.  No, you can’t jump off the shed roof into the pool!  And teachers are even worse.  No, we can’t have extra gym time today.  No, you can’t sit wherever you want.  No talking!  No running in the halls!  No washroom breaks!  I could go on, but you get the picture.  The only thing worse than parents saying no or teachers saying no is when parents and teachers get together and say no.  I’m not saying I believe in conspiracy theories, but when teachers and parents get together and agree on something, well, let’s just say I’m suspicious.  That’s why, when Gordon, Paulo and I spotted a group of parents standing outside the school fence during recess one day, we were all immediately suspicious. 

     It was October and the school yard was full of kids laughing, running, kicking soccer balls, skipping, swinging, sliding and generally just doing what kids do best – having fun.  Just as I was about to kick the soccer ball and no doubt score the winning goal for my team, I spotted a group of mothers on the sidewalk outside the school yard busily jotting things down in little notebooks.  Distracted, a kid from the other team got the ball away from me and kicked it clear across the field, scoring a goal. 

     “What was that all about?” yelled Paulo.  “You let him take the ball away from you!”

     “Look over there,” I said, pointing to the women on the sidewalk.

     “That can’t be good,” said Gordon, joining us.  “The last time the parents got together like that, all the pop and juice machines got pulled out of the school.”

     “Yeah,” agreed Paulo.  “And the time before that, they made us eat healthy snacks every afternoon.”

     “What now?” I wondered.  The bell rang, and we lined up, quickly forgetting about the parents on the sidewalk.  Meanwhile, the parents also made their way into the school and demanded to speak to the principal. 

     “He’s busy,” said the secretary.  “He’s in a meeting.”

     “This won’t take long,” said one mother, bursting into Mr. Evans’ office. 

     “Ladies!” said the principal, getting up from the table where he was helping a kindergarten kid glue macaroni onto a toilet paper roll.  “What brings you here on this fine day?” 

     “It’s about recess,” began one of the mothers.  “We were watching the students outside just now, and it seems like all they were doing was running and playing.”

     “Yes,” said another mother.  “There didn’t seem to be any learning going on.”

     “And there was a definite lack of organization,” chimed in another mom. 

     “Yes,” said Mr. Evans.  “That’s the beauty of recess.  “The kids get to run around and burn off excess energy, and the teachers don’t have to organize or plan a thing.  It’s a big hit at schools all over the world.”

     “Well, we feel that the students’ time could be better spent,” said one mother, clearly in charge of the group. 

     “What do you mean?” asked Mr. Evans, gluing another piece of macaroni to the toilet paper roll.

     “Recess shouldn’t be a time for meaningless fun and play.  Recess time should be used to enrich the students with culture or fine literature.”

     “I see,” said Mr. Evans, who clearly did not see.  Take away recess?  How would he ever break the news to the teachers?  Not to mention the kids! 

     “Recess is an important part of the student’s day,” he began.  “Studies show—”

     “Nonsense!” interrupted the woman in charge.  “Studies show that our kids know nothing of art, classical music and other forms of culture.”

     “You don’t want to be responsible for helping to raise a generation of cultureless kids, do you?” demanded another mother. 

     “Well,” said Mr. Evans, wiping glue from his fingers.  “We already have a wonderful art program here at Danglemore Public School, and our music teacher, Ms. Drone—”  Again he was cut off.

     “We need to bring in professionals.  Let these kids see what real art is!  Listen to classical music!  Watch a live performance!  How much money is in the school budget?”

     The principal sighed in defeat. 

     A few days later, Mr. Evans announced that starting on Monday, there would be no more recess at Danglemore Public School.  Instead, we would spend our recesses learning about classical music, ballet and art by the masters like Picasso and Van Gogh.  We would have live performers come to the school and we’d be taught by real artists.  No more playing soccer, running around or skipping.  No, siree!  We were going to become cultured.

     It turns out that there was no money at all in the school budget for this new “cultural” program, but did that stop the mothers?  No!  They took a vote and decided that the students could all pay to see a live performer or bring in a guest artist.  They quickly discovered that guest artists and live performers charge an awful lot to visit schools, but after much searching, they found a performer who was willing to come to our school for a reasonable sum.  A note went home asking each student to contribute ten dollars for the next day’s cultural event, to be held at ten o’clock the next morning, which was perfect, said the mothers, because that way, we could spend our lunch recess practising what the live performer taught us. 

     “Who is this live performer?” asked Gordon.

     “It says here,” said Mrs. Hoagsbrith, consulting a sheet of paper, “that tomorrow’s guest performer is a mime.”

     “What’s that?” I asked.

     “A mime is a person who doesn’t talk.  He wears white paint on his face and he pretends to do things like climb a ladder or ride a bike.  Or he might pretend to swim or read a book.”

     “That’s crazy!” exclaimed Gordon.  “I climb real ladders and go for real bike rides all the time.  And now we have to pay to watch some guy pretend to do all those things?”

     “It’s worse than that,” said Paulo.  “We’re expected to practise what we learn during our recess time, remember?”  The entire class groaned.

     “Well, that’s culture, I guess,” sighed Mrs. H.  “Just don’t forget your ten dollars tomorrow, everyone.”

     The next morning, the entire school headed to the gym at ten o’clock clutching ten dollar bills in our hands.  We sat in rows on the floor and Mr. Evans walked onto the stage to introduce the mime. 

     “Attention, everyone.  We are about to begin our first cultural performance here at Danglemore Public School.  I am pleased to introduce this morning’s guest performer – Jack the Mime!”

     We politely applauded until Jack waved for us to stop.  Then he immediately went into his act.  He pretended to peel and eat a banana and when he was done, he pretended to slip on the peel and fall.  Only the kindergarten kids in the front row laughed.  Next, Jack the Mime pretended that he was caught in a wind storm and struggled to walk in the gale-force winds.  Then he pretended to climb a ladder, read a book and for his grand finale, he was chased by what I can only guess was a big dog.  I had to admit that as far as mimes went, Jack was quite talented.  What I really learned, however, was that I didn’t like mimes.  So much for culture. 

     When he finished his routine, Jack bowed deeply to the audience and held out his hat.  Mr. Evans rushed onto the stage and motioned for us to begin clapping. 

     “Now,” said Mr. Evans, “it’s time to pay Jack for his inspiring and enriching performance.  Please form a line and drop your money into Jack’s hat on your way out.”

     There was a sudden commotion as Gordon pushed his way to the front of the line. 

     Hmmm, I wonder what Gordon’s up to, I thought.  It’s odd that he would want to be the first to pay.  Don’t tell me he liked the show that much!  And then it happened.

     Gordon held up his hand to get everyone’s attention, and when the room fell silent, he suddenly began acting like a mime.  He pretended to reach into his pockets searching for his money.  Then, in the back pocket of his jeans, he pretended to find it.  He held out an imaginary ten dollar bill and smiled.  Then he pretended to drop the money into Jack’s hat, bowed and walked away. 

     The entire room of kids broke out into spontaneous clapping, cheering and foot stamping.  Everyone began talking at once, saying that Gordon’s act was way better than the real mime’s performance.  Before the teachers could get control of their classes, every kid in the school decided that they wanted to be the next to pretend to pay the mime.  A stampede of students trampled over Mr. Evans and the mothers who had organized the cultural event.  Chairs went flying.  People shoved and pushed.  Jack the Mime cowered silently in a corner. 

     When the dust finally settled and the teachers had regained control over their classes, we were herded back to our rooms.  A minute later, Mr. Evans made an announcement. 

     “As of right now,” he said wearily, “all culture is suspended at Danglemore Public School.  Normal recess activities will resume effective immediately!  And anyone pretending to be a mime will be suspended!”

 Read More Sample Chapters

Book 1 - The Dead Bird Collection
Book 2 - The Fart Chart
Book 3 - The Rabbit
Book 4 - The Christmas Present
Book 5 - The Needle
Book 6 - The Road Trip
Book 7 - Another Good Deed
Book 8 - The Dirty Rotten Grandma!
Book 9 - When Grandmas Attack
Book 10 - Emergency
Book 11 - Yet Another Good Deed
Book 12 - The World's Oldest Teacher
Book 13 - The Big Flush
Book 14 - Culture Shock


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