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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Jack (Who is called Jack) BS: Why Johnnie Can't Sing (56* d) RE: BS: Why Johnnie Can't Sing 15 Sep 99

You know whats funny. I remember that as a kid that we used to sing a lot of the time by ourselves. On the bus going to field trips, at camp, walking home from school. Nobody taught us that I can remember, unless it was another kid who learned it from older siblings. Everything from 'Found a Peanut' to 'Flea', 99-bottles of beer on the wall, Dinah, and parodies of other songs with lyrics expressing our general resentment toward teachers and school (Hark the herald angels shout, 10 more days till we get out!...Hi-ho Hi-ho its off to school we go, we learn some junk and then we flunk ....). We'd sing our fool heads off, and sometimes got in trouble for it (Hail to the bus driver, bus driver, bus driver...). Do kids still do this somewhere?

Funny how it used to be the same way with baseball. We we played constantly all summer, at least when we weren't catching frogs and snakes. Not in leagues, but in pickup games. We made up a million rules to compensate for not having enough players or a real field (pitchers mound as good as first, a foul over the fence into the truck park lot is an automatic out, ghost runners, etc). We had games like 'running bases' and 'Pickle'. We knew how to fix a ball with electricians tape; How to throw a bat to pick sides. How to rub dirt on a bruise to make it feel better ( a variant of the time-honored shaman trick, distract the patient till the pain subsides). Grass got worn out on spots where pitchers and batters stood. We arbitered disputes the old fashioned way, Rock-Paper-Scissors, or maybe we wrestled for it if it was a real hot dispute. There was no structure to learning this stuff either. A little we learned from our dads, like the basics of throwing and catching, or how to oil a glove, or get down for a ground ball. But mostly it just got passed on to us from other kids or we figured it out ourselves. True 'folk process' in action.

Now the only kids who play are in organized ball, with schedules and practices and won loss records and strict rules and lots and lots of grown-ups, including umpires, coaches, and parents. And you know, even though they play that organized ball pretty well, you never see those kids out there later by themselves anymore, just playing baseball together on their own. A lot of effort and coaching goes into teaching them to play, but then, left to themselves, they don't. Why?

I think part of the problem is this, too much of what we give our children is too packaged and shiny and complete. The tire swing has been replaced by Arthurian castles of treated lumber, with rainbow canopies and coil slides. Stuffed animals not for loving but for collecting (mostly by adults-go figure). But what happens? The kids play along, with all the appropriate avarice for new playthings that kids have had for generations, but they're bored. Bored, because its not their natural childood greed they want satisfied. What they really want is a chance to be left alone with their friends to play--as kids! And what we forget is that once they have that, then the simplest thing becomes the most wonderful and diverting toy. A shovel to dig a hole in the backyard, a ball to bounce, a blanket to build a tent with, or maybe, if they are really lucky, that wonder-of-wonders, joy-of-joys, an empty cardboard refrigerator box.

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