School Bites

For some reason, I allowed my TV to show me a local news broadcast the other night, and I heard the anchorperson say this: “Coming up next, a school’s show-and-tell time gone horribly wrong!”

I was intrigued, of course. Anytime a newscaster tell you something has gone “horribly wrong,” you know you’re in for a treat. (Why don’t things ever go any other kind of wrong, by the way? “Pleasantly wrong,” or “casually wrong,” or “magnificently wrong,” for example.)

Since this was TV news, alerting viewers to important events was not the priority. Instead, the focus was on teasing us, to keep us watching for as long as possible. If it were discovered at noon that the world would end before midnight, the TV news would say, “You may die today. Find out why at 10.”

So after a commercial break and some scripted banter among the anchors, the story about show-and-tell time gone horribly wrong was told. What happened was, there was a tiger at a school assembly in Scotts Valley, Calif., and it jumped over some seats and put its mouth around a kid’s head. The boy received relatively minor injuries, considering his head had been in a tiger’s mouth, and is now doing fine. The tiger is now a pantsuit.

No, surprisingly, the tiger was not put to sleep, and what a dreadful pantsuit that would have been anyway. Usually, when a thing like this happens, the animal is summarily executed despite acting only in the manner prescribed by nature, and whichever human beings were responsible for letting it happen get off scot-free — seriously, not a bit of scot on them.

Entirely without scot, so far, is Zoo to You Wildlife Education Inc., a child-terrorization agency that brought the tiger to the assembly as a reward for students who had sold magazine subscriptions, and as a punishment for students whom administrators had determined ought to be beheaded.

(In fairness, Zoo to You has an excellent reputation and seems, on its Web site, to be genuinely sorry about the incident. In unfairness, tell that to the kid who’s cleaning tiger saliva out of his nightmares for the next 20 years.)

According to the TV newsperson, “parents are now questioning what the tiger was doing there in the first place.”

That’s always a question you ask in hindsight, isn’t it? “You know, in retrospect, perhaps bringing the wild jungle cat into a room full of children wasn’t the best idea,” you say. “Maybe a mime would have been less deadly and only slightly more traumatic.” But it’s a little late for would-haves, Hector.

So it really wasn’t “show-and-tell” after all, despite what the TV person said. Show-and-tell is when kids bring items from home and share them with classmates, not when outside organizations come in to promote the devouring of kindergarteners.

Show-and-tell is what my 4-year-old friend Miles has at the pre-school he attends in Orem. Miles is the son of Claire and Monty, who you’ll recall recently spent a year in England, and who also have a 2-year-old son named Owen, who acts as if he has crazy bees in his head.

For show-and-tell, Miles, the non-crazy child, has taken the following items to school:

– His Viewmaster, an item I didn’t realize was still being manufactured in this day and age;

– Post-It Notes;

– Glow-in-the-dark adhesive stars that you can stick on your wall to make it look like you live in outer space. (Miles reports: “Some of the kids were wondering if they were glow-in-the-light, but I said, ‘No, they’re just glow-in-the-dark.'”)

I believe Miles has captured the true essence of show-and-tell in that the objects he chooses reflect the whimsy and innocence of his youth. Also, the Post-It Notes did not attempt to eat anyone. School administrators should take note: After a GOOD assembly, no one needs stitches.

What a jolly little column this is! You'd be surprised how many people ask for further discussion of the exploits of Miles and Owen -- it is mostly their family members asking, granted, but even that bloc is sizable.

Few things recently have given me greater joy than hearing about Miles taking Post-It Notes to show-and-tell, and I was enraptured beyond power of speech when, only a couple days later, I heard about the tiger show-and-tell. Separately, neither would make a column. Together, they make the column write itself.