Once upon a time in a little college town, there lived a boy named Mephen who loved to learn. He loved his grammar and his sciences and his maths and all he wanted was to devour as many books on these topics and take as many classes on the subjects as he could. One day, it was announced that there would be a competition to be held in the quiet little college town and the prize was one sought after by many, far and wide, one that Mephen desired in the deepest recesses of his heart – namely, the prize of that fabled Knowledge—the secrets of childhood and youth.
The competition was an ancient one that had not been held in four years and since that time the rules and circumstances of the competition had changed. The former, much-beloved master of ceremonies, Ulrich C. Knoepflmacher, had since stepped down from his position, leaving it to William Gleason, known throughout the land as “engaging, interesting, and just plain enjoyable.” Despite, the rave review, Mephen was still somewhat nervous about the implications of the lapse in time since the last competition and the prospect of a new, rather unknown master of ceremonies—how would things be different now and what could he expect? And yet, despite his fears, he entered.
The competition would take place in several stages. First came the sorting. Mephen was placed with a group of boys and girls of the same age. The other members of his group were just like him—eager-eyed and ready to learn. His group was called the Soft Doors. There were three other groups called the Sea-Deers, the Junebugs, and the Frogmen, all as eager to win the competition.
First was the agility challenge. The competitors would try to score as many points as possible by clicking their computers as quickly as they could. So, the first round began in a jiffy with the majority of the Sea-Deers and Junebugs and none of the Frogmen advancing to the next round. The Sea-Deers and Junebugs had the advantage of experience in the matter of the competition, while the Frogmen had little to none. However, for the Soft Doors, the field was fair and the contest was tough. Fortunately for our hero Mephen, his fingers were strong and quick, since he always listened to his parents and practiced the piano. So he passed along to the next round, unscathed.
The narrowed pool of Sea-Deers and Junebugs and Soft Doors were now on an equal footing and were eager and poised to get on with the competition. The second part was a test of the boys and girls’ abilities to be on time. The competitors were charged with the task of racing each other to reach the Room of Challengers, a large hall used extensively by the college for competitions just of this sort like ECO101 and its requisite streaking fratboys.
Here, our hero Mephen also excelled. He pushed passed the jocky Sea-Deers and uppity Junebugs, and found a seat for the final challenge. Just in the nick of time too: just as he sat down, the master of ceremonies mounted the stage and began to speak and this is what he said,
_Welcome all you boys and girls_
_To my class on all things youthful_
_And I hope that you’re all prepared for work,_
_Since there will be much, to be truthful._
_I know this course has not been offered in a few years_
_But be at ease and do not fret_
_And lay aside all your qualms and your fears_
_The fun hasn’t even started yet!_
And Master Gleason continued thus, talking about Goody Two Shoes and Locke and John Newberry and as he was engagingly going on in great depth on these matters and as the various Sea-Deers and Junebugs and Soft Doors fell asleep or checked their Facebook pages, Mephen came to a slow realization. Like a warm fuzz starting in his stomach and slowly pushing out of his body, he saw the truth: in order to gain the knowledge that he desired, he did not have to compete for it. He didn’t have to subject himself to these or any challenges. He carried the flame of childhood within himself and that by dissecting those books that he held so dear all those years before he would be smothering that fire.
So Mephen stood up and said,
_I thank you for you time and effort_
_But this really isn’t for me._
_My childhood has no place with these sports_
_Or with developmental psychology._
_I lived my childhood and I cherish it_
_And it had its ins and outs,_
_Ups and downs,_
_And there’s no need to critique or embellish it._
_So I’ll be carrying on my way,_
_I hope you can understand_
_It really is nothing personal_
_In fact it was rather grand._
And with that, Mephen got up and left the competition. But just as he was leaving the classroom, the master stopped him:
_I want you all to take a look and see_
_This young boy right here:_
_I’ve never seen such a fast learner_
_In all my teaching years._
_When all you came, you came to learn_
_About childhood and it’s mysteries,_
_When really it’s no mystery at all_
_Rather it’s all a fantasy._
_Your childhood is not something to be analyzed_
_Nor is it a proof to be shown true._
_But Children’s Lit. is something altogether different,_
_So please turn to page one-hundred ninety two._
And so, Mephen found that he had the Knowledge that he sought all along and that the secret of childhood was not really so secretive after all.