Some Pig

Who remembers the words Charlotte wrote in her web?



Some Pig.

Everybody remembers those. Not a single one of us hasn't seen the cartoon, and of course it's required reading if you ever wanted to get a degree in marketing. It's really the only Marketing Text book in the dewy decimal system. Charlotte's Web and Mad Men DVDs.

The moral of the story is this:

"Make a sign and you're just an ordinary spider. Stand under one and you're a goddam miracle."

Or something like that.

Anyway, Calvin's reading "Charlotte's Web" in school, but hasn't been enjoying the reading part and wants to see the movie.

Which foists upon me two major philosophical conundrums.

Why does reading in school suck so much?


Which version of Charlotte's Web do we Netflix?

The first one is going to require quite a bit of explaining, so we'll just skip it for now. But the second one isn't without some serious intrigue.

See, there are two very highly rated versions of Charlotte's Web. There is the 1973 cartoon musical that I grew up with (Which makes it, and almost me, over forty years old). And then there is the live action version with Dakota Fanning and a whole cast of "who is who" voice overs.

Anyone over twenty five is like "Duh, dumbass, the cartoon"

Anyone under is like "Musicals are gay"

Or something like that.

I mean the original has Debbie Reynolds and Paul Lynde.

(Debbie Reynolds, for those of you under twenty-five, is Princess Leia's mom in real life, and Paul Lynde is nearly always the center seat when you watch reruns of Hollywood Squares on the GSN)

But the updated live action version has Julia Roberts and Steve Buscemi.

If you have to ask who those two are, you are too young or too old for this blog, either way, go have a cookie.

Both rated three and a half stars. Not bad, not great.

I mean, I'm pretty sure he'd prefer the cartoon, but I'm sort of afraid that my pop culture elitism might be clouding my judgment. I certainly don't want him to watch either and think it's stupid. That might just break my heart, almost as much as it does when all but three of dead Charlotte's babies fly away.

And then there's that terrible feeling you get when you realize this time next year, Wilbur gets to watch those three die too.


Of course there's really only one answer:

The cartoon.

(Come on, did you really think I was going to pass up a chance to relive my childhood for the sake of school?)

Which leads us back to the first question:

Why does reading suck so much in school?

Some people might say that we read for enjoyment and not comprehension, which to me, is sorta right, but really sorta not.

Books like Charlotte's Web, get better and better the more you comprehend them. Go ahead, reread it now. There's all kinds of stuff in there that you never got back then. Reading for comprehension is not the problem.

The problem is quantifying that comprehension.

Here's how school is supposed to work:

You go, you learn things, you eat lunch, you learn more things, you go home.

But, how do we know you learned things?

Cause we tested you. If you fail the test you didn't learn. Pretty simple stuff.

ABC's, 123's, The signing of the Declaration of Independence, how to put a condom on correctly. Bing Bang Boom.

But reading tests?

Yeah, reading is really tough to test.

So back when Charlotte's Web was first on VHS, you used to read a book and then write a little synopsis about it. We called those book reports.

Those sucked, so now we have AR tests. Kind of a computer generated multiple choice test based on what happened in the book. Cool,
cause kids can read whatever they want at their own pace.

Only there's a problem.

Cause, well, there are a lot of words. And a lot of things happen. And when you're eight, you're really only going to get some of that to stick. And the things on the test might not be the things that stick and the things that stick might not be on the test.

Calvin failed a couple of AR tests recently, which is ridiculous. He was very upset about it, quite right, but not for the reasons he should be. He was mostly upset, because, get this, he wanted to read the books his older cousin read, but was told for the sake of his scores, to try easier books.



So he was embarrassed for failing his tests, and I had to talk him off the ledge.

See, let's say, Mommy and Daddy read the same book.

They both liked it and they are both good readers. But Daddy remembers the killing parts and mommy remembers the kissy parts, so they both might fail the test.

And the reason, is because the person who wrote the test, didn't read the book.

They dissected it.

And there's a difference.

Just like there is a difference between changing a spark plug and driving a car.

If you read the book and enjoyed it, then there's not a single test worth it's weight in spittle.

Especially since it rewards the kids who read fifteen Dick and Jane books and penalizes the kids who want to challenge themselves with War and Peace.

Don't make the sign, son, stand under it.

Unless you grow up in this household.

Here, Spiders rule.

And you get your lullaby's sung to you by Princess Leia's mom.

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