Sunday on Duty

Today is Sunday, and I am duty master-2. This involves showing up at the school gymnasium every few hours for a lengthy ‘free sports’ period, in which students may shoot balls at hoops, or at each other, in a modern ritual or celebration designed to alleviate boredom. Like most ritual in the modern world, it largely fails to achieve its stated purpose. Ostensibly, the point is to make students leave their video games, secret stashes of cigarettes and porn, and do something athletic for the afternoon. Instead, they bring their battery-powered computers to the gym and play the same games they would play in their dorm rooms on or under the bleachers.

Not everyone behaves so anti-socially. Some few may manage to get a pick-up game of three on three or four on four, in a game that bears a passing resemblance to basketball. However, it always seems so dismayingly lonely that we can find little better to occupy their time than a basketball court with an occasional foray to the weight room, on a Sunday afternoon. Efforts over several years to concoct a museum visitation program, or provide other Sunday afternoon entertainments, have tended to collapse under the weight of the inescapable reality of “coverage”: if a student group is off campus more than walking distance, ipso facto, there is an adult with them, and that adult must be assigned or volunteered for the duty (volunteer, in this sense, is used as a transitive verb, contrary to normative usage).

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    • It IS a problem. And I’m not sure what to do about it. Schools are in a tremendous bind these days because of that problem — they don’t know WHAT to teach, or HOW to teach it, so that it’s likely to matter in 20 years…

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