Odd Man Out

Tinson2’s Junior Cert results came out today.

He did well and is pleased. Very pleased, in fact, so much so that we realise that underneath his super-cool exterior he was actually quite anxious. He need not have worried, he did well in everything except, oddly, in C.S.P.E (Civic, Social & Political Education) which even he’s surprised at. C.P.S.E is the oddball comic relief of school subjects, the educational equivalent of Luna Lovegood. If any of you have young children who will one day face this exam, here is a brief summary of what you need to know to pass it:

  • voting is Good
  • littering is Bad
  • helping your neighbour is Good
  • turning up hungover or tired for work is Bad (this is a very recent change to the curriculum, until yesterday we all thought it was not just Good, but compulsory).

His best two subjects were Woodwork and Metalwork. I find this astonishing, since using chopsticks for two minutes till my fingers get tired is my idea of woodwork, while all I know about metalwork is that I am partly made of it.

And his next best subject was Science. Tinson1 won the Chemistry award in his last school exam, got an A in Biology in the Leaving Cert and is now at Trinity doing Science. Tingirl is just starting 2nd year, but in 1st year her best subject was, well, Science. There’s a bit of a theme going on here.

Yet I remember getting 26% in a science exam, and remember it because it was one of the good years. I remember a teacher holding up my two different drawings of the lungs, one marked “before inhaling” and the other marked “after exhaling” and trying to get me to understand that “before inhaling” and “after exhaling” are exactly the same thing. I remember that whenever I thought about the reproductive system (and back then I thought about little else) then my mind would fill with diagrams of the insides of rabbits.

When a child is very different to its parents we have a glib cliché “he must have been switched at birth”. That explanation looks less likely if all three of them are different to me, gifted in subjects that left me cold (because I didn’t understand thermal radiation).

Then I remember that my father, their grandad, was a carpenter by trade, could fix his own car, mend obstinate Christmas Tree lights, and loved (loves, he’s still alive) things like the space program, and fossils, and engineering feats like great bridges, and it all becomes clear.

I’m the one who was switched at birth.

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