“The Fun They Had”
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI.
“And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (Zech. 8:5).
This summer a new literature book appeared in my mailbox in the school office. It’s interesting to see how textbooks are changing. The artwork and photography in new textbooks are much more colourful than they used to be. The layout of text and graphics are also very different than they were twenty-five years ago. Women and minority authors are more numerous than before.
There were some stories which caught my eye because my classmates and I read them in English class. This also shows another change in schoolbooks. This new literature text is meant for 6th grade, but my classmates and I did not study these stories until junior high or high school. Topics covered in school continue to move to the younger grades.
One of these stories was “The Fun They Had” by Isaac Asimov. A friend of Asimov’s asked him to write a short story for young readers. He decided to write about schools of the future. The “Meet the Writer” page at the end of the story reports, “He wrote the story at one sitting and earned ten dollars for it—‘a penny a word,’ Asimov says.”
The story is set in the year 2155 and speaks of a boy who found a “real book” in the attic of his house. He shares the book with a neighbour girl. The children think it is strange that a book would be printed on paper and that the words just stay stationary on the page instead of moving across a television screen the way their books did. The book was about school, which was also different from their experience. Their school was a room in their houses which contained a mechanical teacher. Their lessons appeared on a screen and they would do their work by use of punch cards, which they then fed into a slot of the teaching machine. The “teacher” would then grade their work and report on their progress.
In the book, the children read about a school which was a special building where all the children went. The children learned in groups and were taught by a person. When the eleven-year-old girl in the story returns to her lonely schoolroom and mechanical teacher, “She was thinking about the old schools they had when her grandfather’s grandfather was a little boy. All the kids from the whole neighbourhood came, laughing and shouting in the schoolyard, sitting together in the schoolroom, going home together at the end of the day. They learned the same things so they could help one another on the homework and talk about it.” The story ends with the little girl “thinking about how the kids must have loved it in the old days. She was thinking about the fun they had.”
The older our children grow the less likely they are to say they enjoy or have fun at school. It is just not the socially acceptable thing to do. It is part of our society that, as children grow older, they will say that school is boring. As modern society presents American adolescents, we would expect the only matters in which they would show any interest to be various forms of entertainment.
Yet that is not what I see in the classroom or especially on the playground. These children do appear to be having fun. Of course, I realize our school is not built in Nirvana nor is it found at the end of a rainbow. As soon as one person sets foot in school in the morning, there will be a saint facing the spiritual struggle of temptation and dealing with sin. When the school is populated by more than 260 of us, the spiritual challenges only increase. All of us at school must deal with our weak and sinful flesh, and we must strive to mortify the old man of sin. The devil does not leave us alone here because the word “Christian” is on our building. Satan does not consider school property to be out of bounds for spreading his snares.
However, when the regular textbook work is finished and my students have the opportunity to prepare for quizzes and tests together, they make the best of it and often invent ways to enjoy their preparation. When watching the children on the playground, there are hundreds of smiles seen. True, there are tears which are shed on the playground, but almost all of the time it is because the children have not run with each other, but into each other. If something mean has been done and discipline must be administered, it is usually well received. There are many Christian friendships which are developing here. We have much for which to be thankful.
Hope School began in the 1940s with four classrooms. Do you think Hope’s first school society members envisioned what we have today? We had an enrolment high of 374 students in 1984, the year before Heritage School started. Hope has now reached 249 students and Heritage certainly does not have a small student body.
The Jews of Zechariah’s day needed encouragement. They had returned from captivity, but faced enemies and the sins of their countrymen. Jerusalem was a relatively large city by size but the people in it were few. People had to be asked to volunteer to live there. Zechariah encouraged the people by telling them Jerusalem’s streets would be full of boys and girls playing in the streets. The Jews might not have dared to imagine such a sight.
The Lord has blessed the efforts of believing parents and grandparents. God has kept His covenant promise, and has given to us schools and playgrounds full of children. However, how far off is the day when we will no longer be able to have our own schools? We must put this opportunity to good use and see to it that our children have an understanding of their blessings. Is there a day when we will remember the fun we had?