‘Good riddance’ to school days!

by Grace

Joe Queenan holds no nostalgia for his children’s school days.

… From the moment my children left school forever ten years ago, I felt a radiant, ineffable joy suffuse my very being. Far from being depressed or sad, I was elated. There was a simple reason for this: From that point onward, I would never again have to think about the kids and school. Never, ever, ever.

I would never have to go to the middle school office to find out why my child was doing so poorly in math. I would never have to ask the high-school principal why the French teacher didn’t seem to speak much French. I would never have to ask the grade-school principal why he rewrote my daughter’s sixth-grade graduation speech to include more references to his own prodigious sense of humor and caring disposition, and fewer jokes of her own.

I would never have to complain that the school had discontinued the WordMasters competition, the one activity at which my son truly excelled. I would never have to find out if my son was in any way responsible for a classmate damaging his wrist during recess. I would never again have to listen to my child, or anyone else’s, play the cello.

As I look forward to my youngest graduating from high school next month, Queenan’s words strike very close to home.  I feel relieved that my years of awkward questions and uncomfortable conversations with public school bureaucrats are ending.

Of course, it was not all bad.  Some administrators and teachers are memorable as standing head and shoulders above the crowd in offering the very best to their students.  For them I will be forever grateful.  But to the rest, I find myself nodding in agreement to Queenan’s words.

… The ordeal had ended; the 18-year plague had run its course; the bitter cup had passed from my lips. I would never quaff from its putrid contents again. Good riddance.


Joe Queenan, “School’s Out Forever”, Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2015.

5 Comments to “‘Good riddance’ to school days!”

  1. This bothered me in so many ways. First, on a purely emotional level, I am going to be so sad when I hit this point. And on a more rational level, this is so selfish. We all need to care about the schools even when our kids are no longer in them. Quality public schools ensure a future for all of us. I cared deeply about the public schools long before I had kids, and I will continue to care after they are finished. But I will be sad too!


  2. And as for the teaching of history – I agree it isn’t that great, but the problem is that the public schools have to teach what the mass public wants to hear. For example, Columbus Day is really big in our school, because of the local population’s ethnicity, but it is a sanitized and cleaned up Columbus Day. I would prefer my kids know the reality of Columbus, and in particular, the fact that Columbus Day is not very popular among todays Native Americans. I find that the version of history taught here is too conservative, but mainly it just lacks nuance and reality. My kids need to know that the Iroquois structure did influence Jefferson (and Franklin in particular), that they tortured captives (as did the French of that era – no monopoly there), but also that the Iroquois, the Huron, the French, and the English were all playing power games.

    The worst example of sanitization I ever saw was when my oldest kid, then a first grader, came home to tell me that they were celebrating Martin Luther King because he was a great man who gave speeches to make sure all the children could play together. Um, no. I was a first grader when MLK was assasinated, and remember our neighbors cheering (this was in the South). I sat my kid down, and explained Jim Crow’s evils as best I could, and explained how people marched and demonstrated and went to jail and were beaten to get their rights. I knew all of that in first grade, so I figured my kids could too. Speeches so al the children could play together? Ugh!


  3. “this is so selfish”

    At some point frustrated parents realize that saving their own children must be their priority. While it would be good for everyone to work to support all the causes and institutions that are important, in reality we all have limited resources and must limit our focus.

    “I cared deeply about the public schools long before I had kids, and I will continue to care after they are finished. ”

    Nothing in the essay suggested to me that Queenan doesn’t care about public schools. He is just relieved that he doesn’t have to think about his kids and school.

    I admit some sadness as my kids pass through various stages of their lives, but in this case my relief supersedes sadness.


  4. The dad of one of my kids friends was just complaining to me about 7th grade social studies – he says there is too much traditional history in it, and not enough contemporary issues. He said he wants to go back to the way that social studies was taught when he was a kid, when there was evidently no history content at all!!!


  5. I continue to believe that more school choice would be better for almost everyone. Those parents can have their current events type of history courses and other parents could have their more traditional history courses. I do believe that history is a course that lends itself to being taught with a certain bias.


%d bloggers like this: