One Way to Skin the FCAT | Tailpipe | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

One Way to Skin the FCAT

Summer used to be the birthright of American kids. Remember? It was the slow, loopy season, when there was time on your hands and thrilling new ideas, unimpeded by rigid schedules, seemed to come sailing in out of nowhere. You decided to read 100 Years of Solitude in a day, or do volunteer work at a soup kitchen, or polish your jump shot, or figure out, just for the hell of it, how a single-file army of ants was invading the kitchen. Funny thing: You realized years later that you learned more in the doldrums of those hot, structureless summer days than if you had spent the time with your nose stuck in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Summers are educational, damn it.

Well, the Broward County School Board has already taken a big chunk out of that time, and it´s threatening to take more. Schools, which opened this year on August 8, are scheduled to open a day earlier next year. And who knows how many days the 2005-06 year will be extended next spring to make up for time lost to Wilma´s rampage? The idea, of course, is to make more time for FCAT preparation. FCAT is, of course, what the Florida schools offer in place of education. (When Tailpipe recently mentioned some difficulties his pipette was having with dividing by decimals, her teacher said, ¨Don´t worry. It´s not on the FCAT.¨ Tell that to the pipette when someday she´s trying to figure out if some credit card company is ripping her off.)

Take heart, though. The School Board really wants to know your opinion. If you can navigate your way through the board´s website (, you´ll find a calendar survey offering four different school-year options: A, B, D, or F. If that doesn´t confuse you enough (what happened to C and E?), take a look at the choices you´re offered. Each is a 12-month calendar chart. Careful study shows that each has a different start date (the clue is a small arrow pointing to a day in August, labeled ¨First Day of School¨). Peruse all four and you´ll see it´s offering you four possible dates: August 7, 9, 14, or 21. Now fill in the e-mail identification page and state your choice (that would be ¨Work Copy F,¨ with school starting August 21, if you want to salvage at least some of your kids´ summer vacation).

Do this by November 23, and — oh yeah — there´s no commitment by the board to take your advice.

Hollywood parent Jennifer Irving describes the process as a ¨quote-unquote poll.¨

¨It´s so complicated, how´s the average parent going to figure it out?¨ says Irving, a member of Save Our Summers, an organization that´s trying to delay the school year. The group is trying to get the word out to parents, urge school newsletters to publicize the poll, get people to e-mail the board about their dissatisfaction, and support legislative approaches, particularly a bill sponsored by State Rep. Dan Gelber (D-Miami) that would make the first day of school no earlier than a week before Labor Day.

There are strong arguments to be made against the early start dates: Other states still observe the old first-Wednesday-after-Labor Day schedule, so it´s hard to coordinate vacation plans with out-of-state relatives, summer camps haven´t caught on to Florida´s system, and it´s too damned hot in August.

But nothing trumps the notion that summer is an important part of every kid´s education.

Analog Thrills

Among the hardest hit during the post-Wilma blackout were young men who matured during the Age of the Internet. To them, pornography has always been a nonstop stream of spam-ridden jpegs, culled from the crummiest corners of cyberspace. Without electricity and DSL, that supply of high-res fantasy fodder stopped coming. What was a poor boy to do?

What young men did back in the good old days and — judging by the graying crowd of whack-stack perusers at Bob´s News, the South Andrews institution crammed with every periodical known to exist — still rely on as a backup. Behind the counter, manager Erin Steinberg explained that, with electricity off in so many households, magazines across the board were moving briskly.

But Penthouse, Hustler, Barely Legal, et al. were selling unusually well.

¨A lot more adult mags, no doubt about it,¨ he said. ¨When the power goes off, people get bored.¨

As a public service, Tailpipe hereby gives the next generation a primer on old-school, analog-porn etiquette: · Insist on a brown paper bag.

· Keep the goodies hidden in a stack under the bed or maybe in a cardboard box on a high shelf.

· Give them all away to your kid brother when you leave the house.

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