By the 1990’s, whining had become one of America’s chief pastimes. Even while grocery shopping, I was unceasingly annoyed by the more and more familiar sound of childish whimpering in places like the cereal aisle, where a kid would moan demands, like “Awww, Mommy, I want this cereal, pleeease!” “No,” would come the first response. “Chocolate Rasberry Sugar Bombs are not good for you.” “Awwww, that’s not fair, Mommy!” was often the comeback, which would usually only prolong the debate until the mother would at last give in by saying, “Oh, all right, but only for small portions. I don’t want to pay for any dental implants until you’re at least twelve.”
These collective grocery store experiences became, over time, the basis of my theory that many of our social ills can be traced back to the cereal aisles of grocery stores across the country, among all those hundreds of brands of tooth-rotting breakfast fare, with colorful and humorous logos on the boxes, reinforced on Saturday morning television commercials, mesmerizing children into believing that all that sugar was as vital as the air they breathed. Finally, it was almost as though these children from all across America had banded together at secret meeting sites, when their parents thought their kids were really playing on monkey bars, riding their bikes, or skate boarding. This facade covered the fact that the kids were actually meeting to share their new national message of, “WHINING WORKS!” Playgrounds everywhere became convention centers to spread the word that, not only could grocery store griping and sniveling bring results, but such intense complaining could also bring rewards in other sectors of society.
Thus, whining made its way into public schools, where its effect on scholastic standards may still be seen in the demands placed upon classes of our public schools, which I believe sometime during the past twenty years managed to merge with the entertainment industry. Another result of this huge bellyaching business has been that certain teachers across the land have banded together in a counter-movement, the crux of which is that homework requirements should remain stringent, and that all teachers for all grades in public schools must join together in building a mass immunity to the lamentations of those students, who have honed complaining down to an art form, which has seeped into factories, courthouses, the auto and garment industries, food production, and to every other conveyor belt, literal and figurative, that produces shoddiness as its chief product, rather than standing up to the laziness of moaning shirkers of duty in living up to higher, albeit more difficult, expectation. The more I encountered the tired old phrase from my students of “That’s not fair,” the more I became resolved to live up to a teacher headline I longed to see on the front pages of newspapers across the country, TEACHERS FIGHT BACK WITH MASS WHINING OF THEIR OWN! Of course, that story never actually hit the news stands, but its significance became my focus in the attempt to help squelch the national whining fest, that had already been going on for years.
I began practicing an irritatingly nasal tone of voice in my use of important whining terminology as in, “Awww, you guys can read all twenty pages in one night. Breaking them up into little baby assignments would just be silly, and that’s not fair!” If students persisted, I would plug my ears with my forefingers and walk around the classroom singing, “Alouette.” After a while, perhaps to avoid the torture of my increasingly professional whining skills, they stopped arguing and just did the assignments. This technique was far more successful than my earlier one, which was doubling an assignment (with an attempted straight face) and then cutting it in half to make it seem they were getting away with something. That method was not only devious, but my acting was never quite good enough to pull it off, because apparently, despite my best efforts, there always remained the hint of a smirk on my face and just enough inauthenticity in my voice, that even the slowest kid in the class was on to me.
So, the next time you want to know what’s wrong with America, in terms of our shrinking standards of quality, go to your nearest super market, get a shopping cart, and mosey on over to the cereal aisle, that wonderland of sugar-impregnated breakfast vittles with about as much nutritional value as bubblegum, and observe the children there and the interaction with their parents, the outcome of which will almost assuredly be a mother caving in to her child’s demand for a marshmallow cereal with soda pop overtones, in order to avoid the screeching, high-pitched and embarrassing hint of abuse that might carry over into the soup and condiments aisle. This, dear friends, is really the source of all irrational and unmerited sense of entitlement in our country, the only remedy to which may be a good dose of homework. If all else fails, then just blame everything on Count Chocula and that awful sugar rush our kids have come to require. JB