This summer, our family returned to visit my hometown in Minnesota. The trip had no real focus, no timetables, no plans – a free-association kind of visit that dredged up plenty of memories, particularly about my school days.

  • I remembered learning how to deal with a bully after getting pushed through a plate-glass window one day and then getting mowed down on the school yard another day when no one else was around. I still remember the lesson I learned when I followed him around until he was in a crowd, and then dared him to hit me again in front of some witnesses. He didn’t.
  • I remembered learning something about loyalty and honesty one day while walking down the school hallway and noticing the girl I thought I was dating in a torrid embrace against her locker with one of the football players.
  • I remembered the time some high school buddies and I smuggled bottles of Cold Duck (a grape-juice beverage whose only distinguishing feature was that the bottle looked like real champagne) aboard a school bus transporting us to a sanctioned school event. We “surreptitiously” managed to draw the attention of horrified advisors and students in another bus in the caravan while chugging the “champagne” (and violating every field-trip and drinking-age rule in the process). Both buses screeched to a halt, and an angry mob of advisors began a thorough search for the contraband. I learned a little something about humor, and how some people don’t have a sense of it, that day.
  • I remembered another time when three of us were taking a make-up test together at the same table in a deserted high school library. (The other two were what we called “burn-outs” back then; these were kids who never met a drug they didn’t like.) Anyway, this was the final test for a class that we all needed to graduate; I wasn’t worried, but the burn-outs clearly were. I remember a foggy-eyed Paul leaning over and asking, no begging, me to let him copy answers from my paper. I still remember how I responded and the lesson I learned.

Until this summer, I’d forgotten how much I learned during my school years.

But you know what? During my flashbacks, nothing came to mind about standardized test scores or advanced math concepts or the public vs. private school debate or the importance of positioning every grade-schooler for enrollment in the “right” graduate school.

None of that came to mind until we returned to Dallas, and I began reading the paper and watching television again around here.

Where, I wonder, are my memories of that stuff? Was it not that important then, or is it simply too important now?