The news that the average SAT scores of Anne Arundel County high school students have dropped a tad already has provoked suitably apocalyptic headlines ("SAT's Plummet: Western Civilization As We Know It Collapses") and notes of due concern from politicos who believe in doing everything they can for public education, short of actually paying for it.
In my never-ending quest to be of service to our readers, I recently took a break from the book I've been working on ("From Jerry West to Gerrymander: The Tom McMillen Story"), to compile a list of phrases and sentences that, if mastered and repeated, could raise our kids' verbal test scores dramatically.
Mastered and repeated by PARENTS, that is. Try these gems on for size, then sit back and watch the college acceptances roll in.
* "Why sure you can apply for a job at the mall, dear. In June."
* "Dad and I have decided to get a subscription to Colonial Players this season. And guess what, hot shot, you're coming along."
* "You wish to play video games, you say? How about next Thursday from 7:15 to 7:30."
* "Take off that atrocious Jughead hat, put that skateboardaway before I wrap it around your neck and do your bloody homework."
* "I don't care what Anne Arundel County 'Jock-o-crats' say! If you don't perform in the classroom, you're not performing in the field! You and your lousy 1.6!"
* "We'll go skiing for a weekend in Pennsylvania this year. The week in Colorado is out of the question. Youcan't afford to miss that much school."
* "I don't care how good you are on the computer. If you can't appreciate 'The Great Gatsby' in your 'American Dream' class, you're going to grow up to be just as boring as your father."
* "Maybe the reason 'nobody understands you' is because you can't write or speak intelligently. I'm not great at telepathy. You want to be understood, try learning to express yourself like a human being."
* (To the child's teacher): "We know the English teachers at Annapolis, South River, Northeast, North County, Southern, etc. want to improve our child's writing. I'd like to call you once every couple of weeks to check on upcoming assignments and monitor how Johnny/Susie is doing. May I?"
* "What do you mean 'U.S. History ain't no English class?' You can't turn this in to Mr. Greenfield. ALL your classes are English classes. Please rewrite this."
* "You don't want to buy this book because it's a waste of money since you'll only read it once? As opposed to shampoo, lipstick and hair spray that, as we all know, last forever? Get a grip."
* "Of course language skills are important! Who do you think you are, the mayor of Annapolis or something?"
What NOT to say: "Hey, don't worry. You can always play for the Anne Arundel Community College sports teams. They won't care about your SAT scores. The hell with school! Chill out!"
Phil Greenfield, who teaches at Annapolis High School whennot writing about classical music for the Anne Arundel County Sun, has used each of these lines at least once.