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Jewish World Review
August 28, 2009
/ 8 Elul 5769
It's Back to Robert Hall Again
School bells ring and children sing
"It's back to Robert Hall again."
Mother knows for better clothes
It's back to Robert Hall again.
You'll save more on clothes for school
Shop at Robert Hall
I don't know where you grew up, but where I came from we kids knew that when you heard that jingle on radio or TV it meant summertime was over and school was just around the corner. I hated that jingle. I hated having to go back to school. But never the less I looked forward to getting all my new clothes and supplies for the school year. New shoes, a week's worth of new shirts, 3 or 4 new trousers and, best of all, a wonderful brand-new coat.
The feel and smell of the new clothing was heady and although I despised the idea of starting a new school year, I couldn't wait to get dressed that first day in my new duds. In that regard I guess going back to school was kind of a love/hate thing with me. I always enjoyed "new stuff" whether it was clothes or notebooks and pens. I even liked getting the brand-new text books. I liked the way they smelled and crackled when I first opened them (which would probably be the last time I'd open them for that entire school year).
I don't know if kids today have those sensations. Do kids today get new clothes for school anymore? When we got our new clothes in late August, early September, that was it for new clothes for the entire year. I think kids now probably get new stuff all year-long. Buying new clothing was very special for us. We looked forward to going shopping for school clothes. We were excited about it. Do kids think getting new clothing is special anymore? Do they get excited over it? I don't know.
Even though I hated school generally there were things about it that I liked and looked forward to. No, not sports, but there were other non-academic parts of the school curriculum that were of interest to me. Any sort of art was great. I loved to draw and work with colors; I was quite good at it. I enjoyed music too even though I never had any natural gift for it. I loved learning American history through American folk music. Songs like "The Erie Canal," "Make My Living in Sandy Land," "Oh Susanna," "Shenandoah" and so many others have stayed with me throughout my life. Are school children taught these songs anymore?
Academic studies such as mathematics, science, and learning the parts of speech mostly bored the heck out of me. It was just so much gibberish as far as I was concerned. However, I was lucky to have a couple of really good teachers in my life - teachers that made learning interesting. One was a history teacher who told the stories of our country so well that I was instilled with a lifelong interest in it. Another was an English teacher who taught Greek Mythology which I found fascinating. I can't remember if it was that same teacher or another who introduced me to English literature, but I can still remember the excitement in reading Julius Caesar and A Tale of Two Cities for the first time and discussing it in class afterwards.
Do kids learn English literature in grade school anymore? Do they learn American History that isn't tainted with political correctness? Do they learn American history that isn't spun to reflect current attitudes regarding multiculturalism? Are kids taught to love and respect our founding fathers and the story of our wonderful nation as we were taught? Are they learning to love America, to take pride in our country and its grand heritage and culture? How much time is spent in teaching kids to be good American citizens in the traditional sense? Patriotism. Is it encouraged anymore?
I raise these questions, but I know the answer. No, these values are not stressed in our schools anymore.
Robert Hall clothing stores are long gone - having bit the dust around 1977. The catchy little back to school jingle is no more. The store and the jingle were pure Americana. While I feel a tinge of nostalgia for the jingle, the greater loss by far is the lack of teaching pro-American culture in our public schools.
Teaching patriotism and American history has been, for the most part, tossed out along with the back to school jingle many years ago.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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