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Once Is Not Enough

Once is not EnoughHow many of you would go back to high school if you could? Would the opportunity to have a second shot at becoming homecoming queen or the starting quarterback prove so overpowering that you’d shuck it all to return to the days of gym class, tardies and Clearasil? Apparently, for some of us, the answer would be yes as the officials of New Life Christian School in Longview, Texas, recently found out when they learned that a member of their class of 2016 was actually 34 years old.

By all accounts the woman, who really puts the senior into senior, was a good student, and quite popular, and just blended in with the rest of the kids. I guess her teachers just chalked up her detailed knowledge of the Clinton presidency, ability to recall where she was on 9/11 and questions about this “new math” to good study habits. The article I read didn’t specify what precipitated the end of her charade—maybe she got caught passing a note in class, or was forced to turn over her birth certificate as a requirement for running for class president—but she is currently cooling her heels in the local lock-up.

While I admit that this incident is a little embarrassing for all involved, I’m not sure how grievous an offense it really is. Certainly, the presence of 34 years olds amongst the student body does present some problems for the modern educator—is “I can’t make it to school today because my wife needed the car” an acceptable excuse for an excused absence—should this be a reason for those among us suffering from arrested adolescence to not be able to fulfill our long abandoned dreams?

In some respects the recidivist high school graduate probably has more of a right to be in the local high school than the guy or girl who would sit next to them in English class. Think about it, since it’s your taxes that are actually paying for everything, why shouldn’t you have the chance to take advantage of your own property levies? And wouldn’t this benefit all involved? The over taxed math teacher could actually take an hour or two off every now and then by turning things over to the CPA in the third row seeking to relive their glory days. And wouldn’t just about every class benefit from the participation of those who could tell the members of our next generation that their future employers won’t find “LOL” in a formal business case anything to laugh about, and that, yes, some of them will use algebra in their daily lives? If experience really is the best teacher, then doesn’t this provide the average teenage pupil the best of both worlds?

Certainly allowing those who wish to return to the halls of the local high school is going to have some downsides—does anyone really want to see your average “40 something” guy in one of those gym uniforms—but I think the bigger issues will surround their participation in extra curricular activities. Can a class election really be fair if one of the candidates has pockets deep enough to pay for “all you can eat pizza” campaign rallies, or is it okay to pay the coach for more playing time? Even transportation to events could be an issue since who would want to ride the team bus to away games when you can be transported in the head cheerleader’s new Lexus? Obviously some degree of restraint is going to have to be exercised here.

It’s difficult to say how many of us would find the prospect of repeating high school appealing. My marketing guy, for instance, finds no allure in reliving his high school tenure by being a middle-aged man sitting in the vice-principal’s office. And I think if most of us take the time to cut through the rose-colored memories of proms and good times with friends to remember those days as the vicious period of socialization governed by an arcane set of rules—“I’m suspended from school for skipping school?”—they really were, we’d choose not to go back. To each his own I suppose. However, in the maelstrom that is high school, does what we’ve become really matter, or is a member of the Spanish club always a member of the Spanish club? As the 34-year-old sophomore recently found out, maybe the past should stay in the past.