Article Thumbnail

Three Education Experts School Us on ‘Billy Madison’

What the hell was Billy going to learn doing just two weeks of every grade, anyway?

As educators approach the most complex back-to-school season in generations, surely they have better things to do than discuss a 25-year-old Adam Sandler film. Regardless, I managed to find three of them willing to let me waste their time with questions about Adam Sandler’s back-to-school classic — questions like, “Is two weeks of each grade really enough to learn anything?” and “How would someone best prepare for an academic decathlon?” I also wanted to ask them about the film’s more existential questions, like “Which is better, shampoo or conditioner?” and if they prefer a banana or a Snack Pack. So, here’s what they said (best get reading before that bad ol’ penguin shows up).

On Whether Billy Could Learn Anything With Just Two Weeks of Each Grade

Pam, elementary school teacher: No way. It takes a good month to get used to anything in school. When we usually go back in September, the real teaching of new material doesn’t even start until October. Especially a random two weeks in the school year like in the movie — I don’t know how much anyone would get out of that.

Lennie, assistant principal and former teacher: No. As an adult, going back to review sixth grade science might be okay, but there’s a lot of material. Parents who are having to homeschool their kids right now are finding that there’s a lot of shit they don’t remember, and I don’t think two weeks would be enough to put it back in their heads.

Pete, school administrator and former teacher: No, you can’t get through anything in two weeks. I mean, for a man his age who’s doing it as a refresher, that might work fine, but not for an actual kid.

On What Grade Level a Kid Should Be Able to Spell “Rock”

Pete: I would say first or second grade.

Pam: Probably second grade.

Lennie: Third grade.

On What to Do With a Paste-Eater

Pam: Believe it or not, I’ve never had to deal with that, but I’ve had kids eat other things, like things off the floor that clearly don’t belong in their mouth. In those cases, I’ve just called them out on it. 

Pete: You send them to the nurse’s office now. Back then, you might have to send them to poison control depending upon what type of glue that was. In the movie, it looked like home brew, which isn’t allowed anymore. You need documentation for any kind of chemical for anything in a classroom now.

Lennie: At the high school level, I’d send them to counseling. 

On Whether Cursive Is Still Taught in School

Pam: Some schools still teach cursive, usually it’s in third grade. In our school, they do it at the end of third grade after all the state tests and only if they have time. Some older teachers feel that it’s important, but there’s more of a push now for technology and typing. Actually, now, for the kids who actually do know cursive, we tell them not to write that way because their handwriting is so terrible that we can’t read it.

On How Cool It Is to Pee Your Pants

Pam: No, it’s not cool. That’s a big, fat “no.”

Lennie: No. Accidents are one thing, but if it happened more than once, that would be another reason to have a kid checked out. Kids are supposed to be potty-trained before kindergarten.

Pete: I think it was cool in the movie how it was represented. It was a fairly forward-thinking idea for a movie lacking in forward-thinking ideas. In real life now, though, a kid would get really bullied and ostracized for peeing their pants. 

On How Best to Prepare for an Academic Decathlon

Lennie: I would tell a kid to look at old questions on Jeopardy to prepare for that. You might not know exactly what they’re going to ask, but it’ll give you an idea.

Pam: Sometimes when preparing for a test we do a Jeopardy game for the kids to review. But all the baking and stuff like that in the movie, I don’t know. That’s more high school.

Pete: Honestly, a lot of kids don’t prepare for tests at all anymore. They’re all on a device during study times, and you don’t know if they’re studying on that device or looking up cat pictures. The way I prepared for tests is very different than today. There’s a lot less studying because information recall isn’t really a thing anymore. You can just pull out a phone and Google something.

On How They Feel About Penguins

Pam: I think they’re cute.

Lennie: They’re neat. I like to see them at the zoo. I wish we’d do a better job of protecting our wildlife.

Pete: I like the animal, but I hate the hockey team.

On Which is Better, Shampoo or Conditioner?

Lennie: Shampoo because you don’t really need conditioner.

Pam: Shampoo, because it cleans your hair, duh.

Pete: I’m a guy so I don’t use them separately — they come in the same bottle.

On Snack Packs versus Bananas

Pam: Banana, because Snack Packs are messy. I’d rather a kid just eat a banana.

Lennie: Probably a banana. I don’t like those Snack Packs, they always taste plastic-y to me. 

Pete: I hate Snack Packs. I had a bad experience with a Snack Pack when I opened one up and it was all rotten. Snack Packs are a no-go for me, so I’ll say banana.

On Who They’d Rather Bone, Meg Ryan or Jack Nicholson?

Lennie: I’m going to have to pass on that one.

Pete: Pass.

Pam: Oh, Meg Ryan. Definitely.