Scholars and Shoppers

I remember they called it GATE. I’m not sure what they call it now.


But it was always for the smart kids, the high achievers. Maybe today that use a more inclusive name, if there can even be a name more unassuming and passive than the abbreviated GATE

There’s also AVID, a program that, if I understand correctly, attempts to do almost the opposite, by putting together underperforming, low income students with higher performing students. It sounds like a better approach, especially when I remember Bart Simpson’s classic quote when he gets put into a remedial class in the episode You Only Move Twice: “Let me get this straight– we’re behind the rest of our class, and we’re going to catch up to them by going slower than they are?”

Once, in 7th or 8th grade, I tried to make some jokes to my friend. We were taking a math test that wasn’t to be graded. Enough information for me to prioritize jokes. My friend was more square. He diligently focused on the problems. The next day he was gone, switched, upgraded to a more advanced math class.


50%? That’s a good enough deal to make you reconsider your staunch, anti-consumerist self pep talk before walking into Old Navy. Oh. Closer inspection: 50% off second pair. Close call.

Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s my closet, maybe it’s online shopping, but I’ve not needed to visit a retail store in a while. I went only to accompany a friend who needed to exchange sizes. It’s overwhelming in there, even when kept tidy. So many products and colors and features! Sales and discounts are everywhere, and the store does a great job convincing you that you are the one who’s taking advantage of them, and not the other way around.

They scour the racks deeply looking alive and purposeful, and then stand in line with blank eyes as their children orbit them, sponges as they are, drinking in the products and begging and being denied. No problem, it’s a lesson of growing up. You can’t always get what you want as a kid, but when you grow older, you can get your revenge and pursue all means of buying everything you never had.



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