Happy Valentine’s Day!

My husband’s not-quite Barry White operatic tenor voice as he dressed this morning: “Love is in the air… Everywhere I look around… Love is in the air… Every sight and every sound…”

You don’t need to correct me and tell me Barry White didn’t do that song. The artist does sound like him, though, so there.

I have a new definition of “difficult” to add to the dictionary. Teaching 6th graders about editorial cartoons. First of all, they don’t understand caricature, so you have to explain what that is. Second, they don’t understand symbolism, so you have to explain that. Third, they don’t follow the news, so you have to explain that. They are looking at cartoons with people they can’t recognize and jokes they don’t get. I wanted to bang my head on the wall. The following is a real discussion we had about the following cartoon, recollected to the best of my memory from yesterday’s 6th grade Journalism class:

Me: “Okay, now look at this cartoon and compare it to the picture on the front page of the paper.”

Students: “It’s the same guy.”

Me: “Okay, now when we looked at that last cartoon about John Kerry, we talked about what Kerry and Bush each did during Vietnam. This cartoon says that we can prove George Bush served in the military because in 1972 the Alabama National Guard’s debt exploded and they invaded Mississippi.”

Students: Blank looks.

Me: “What are some things people are criticizing Bush for right now?”

Students: Blank looks.

Me: “Well, one thing is that our own national debt has exploded while Bush has become president.”

Student: [incredulous] “Who do we owe money to?”

Me: “Well, it is complicated, but basically to companies and banks and other countries.”

Students: “Why?”

Me: “The government is spending more money than they’re taking in, so they have to borrow.”

Student: “Why don’t we just print more money?”

Me: “Well, you have to have a certain amount. If you print too much money, it isn’t worth anything. If you don’t print enough, the value of the money is inflated. Anyway, let’s get back to the cartoon. Another thing Bush is criticized for is invading Iraq. We still can’t find the Weapons of Mass Destruction, and that’s why Bush said we should fight Iraq — to find those weapons and stop Saddam from using them. So if Bush is being criticized for these two things, what do you think this cartoon means?”

Students: Blank looks.

Me: “Think about it. If right now our national debt has exploded and Bush is accused of invading Iraq for no reason, and if in 1972 the Alabama National Guard’s debt exploded and they invaded Mississippi for no reason…”

Students: More blank looks.

Me: “Since these similar things happen each time Bush gets involved in something, it’s proof that he had a hand in both. It’s proof he served in the military. See? It’s a joke. The Alabama National Guard didn’t really have a debt…”

A hand shoots into the air.

Me: “Yes?”

Student: “So, they didn’t really invade Mississippi?”

Thunk. That’s the sound of me banging my head on the wall.

Anyway, reading Cranky Dragon’s latest entry made me finally want to join BookCrossing. I’ve been reading about her fun with it for a long time now, and was interested in the concept, but for some reason, just never clicked the link or really thought about it. I don’t know why. One Christmas, the local Barnes and Noble had one of those gift tag trees up — you know the ones. You are supposed to take a tag off the tree and buy a book for a needy child. I really don’t know how many books I bought that Christmas. I have often praised Chik-Fil-A to others, because they’re the only fast food restaurant I know of that often gives out books as prizes with kids’ meals. I know what happens to kids who grow up without any real books around the house. They struggle all through school. I have always been one to promote literacy at every turn. Why I didn’t join BookCrossing long ago, I can’t explain. But better late than never. And now you go join, and tell them I sent you.