No Chive Left Behind

Not since the launch of Sputnik has U.S. education seemed so ripe for reform

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"What's this?" the grocery cashier asked me, holding a tan melon at eye level. "I don't know how much to charge you, because I don't know what to call this."

"That," I answered, trying to hide my surprise, "is called a cantaloupe."

Taking my groceries to the car, I shrugged the whole thing off as a fluke. It's theoretically possible, I thought, stowing the last bag on the back seat, that a boy could pass the first 16 years of his life without cantaloupe consciousness.

A scant two weeks later, however, a subsequent trip to the supermarket brought an even deeper shock. I was once again at the register, waiting for a price check on paper towels, when I heard the scanner at the neighboring checkout come to a sudden halt.

"What do you call these?" asked the cashier, a young woman in high school.

"Honey," said the woman at the counter, shaking her head, "those are strawberries. Haven't you ever eaten a fresh strawberry?"

The cashier answered no, smiling without alarm.

The customer bolted from line and dashed to the produce section, returning with two more pints of berries.

"I'm buying these for you, dear," she told the cashier. "I don't want you to go through life without tasting a fresh strawberry."

I had excused the cantaloupe cluelessness as an aberration, but the strawberry-challenged teen suggested an ominous trend. I couldn't wait to tell my mother and sisters, who routinely gather at the Sunday dinner table and, like a Greek chorus, predict the End of Civilization As We Know It.


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