[ExI] the fun they had

spike spike66 at att.net
Tue Oct 19 18:13:40 UTC 2010

A few weeks ago I posted a comment about writing a memoir, but I feared that
it would be inaccurate, since my memories of past events are happier,
funnier, less boring, generally more positive than they actually were at the
time.  This is OK I suppose or even a good thing, but I want to write it as
it really was, not as I remember it.  I have a thought experiment for you.
Sunday we took my son to the Western Railway Museum near Rio Vista.  They
have it all in century theme, since their exhibits are restored train cars
and trolleys from about 1900 to 1920 vintage.  We rode a restored 1911
electric trolley out to where they were having a 1910 themed harvest
festival, where the staff dressed in 1910 costume, and had everything set up
in a way that would have entertained the kids a century ago, such as face
painting, vintage clowns, a petting zoo, pony rides, pumpkin hurling
contest, pie, burgers and dogs, etc.  The thing my son loved the best was
the hay palace, a large structure made of hay bales which could perhaps be
best described as a three dimensional maze.  The kids loved that.
As he played, I remembered a story that I read about 40 years ago, a SF
titled "The Fun They Had."  As I recall, it was about a couple of school age
kids about the age I was then (~10 yrs) daydreaming about how good it was
100 years before, when school consisted of a classroom full of kids.  I
googled a few minutes ago, and found that story, and learned it was
originally written in 1951 by Asimov.  I didn't read it, because I wanted to
perform the following thought experiment, to test my own 40 yr old memories.

Here's the experiment: try to think of a story you read in your elementary
school years, then see if you can find it on the web somewhere.  If so, try
to write out the story as you remember it, then reread for comparison.
Short stories are good, because it doesn't require much time, altho I might
repeat this experiment with D'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.  
So here is what I recall of The Fun They Had.  Two kids, about fifth grade
or so, discover a book which is about 100 years old, so it was written about
1960, and start to read about how school was taught back then.  A
grandfatherly sort, historian, tries to explain how it was back in those
days, when the kids sat and listened to a single adult teacher, who put the
lessons on a chalk board.  The 2060 kids were absolutely amazed that the
historian could do arithmetic without a computer of any sort, and could
actually remember the days when there were classrooms, instead of the lonely
way the 2060 kids learned, one on one with a computer.  They imagined the
classrooms as far better than they actually were.
I will report back after I reread The Fun They Had.
Do see if you can reproduce this experiment with your own childhood reading
As I recall classrooms, pretty much all of them, it was like being stuck in
a traffic jam going walking speed in a Maserati: not particularly
comfortable, knowing you could go so fast and so far if they would just get
the hell outta your way, waiting waiting waiting for the others to struggle
and learn that which one mastered with ease and delight, on one's own, at
home, long before.  It wasn't the fun we had, it was the boredom and
frustration we endured.  Yet were I to write about it now, it would sound
like the fun I had.
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