First day of school today different from when I was a kid

First day of school today different from when I was a kid

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First day of school today different from when I was a kid

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

My son started his first day of 8th Grade today reminding me how fast life passes us all.

If 48 rushed past me, it rushed past everyone.

The experience that my son had today is much different from the one I went through in the Fall of 1966.

On his first day of school, my son carried a MAC Book laptop that cost more than my first car when I turned 15 and a half two years later into high school. Technology is today’s world.

When I was a kid, technology was something that awed us and provoked our imaginations to think of space travel and aliens. The closest think to technology I had was a “slide rule” that, if mastered, would help you calculate mathematical equations, most of which you would never use in any job you might get later in life.

You only needed your brain to figure out the change when a customer purchased a Whopper for 35 cents back in 1967, at the Burger King, where I worked illegally because the family needed money. But the manager was a family friend and paid me 95 cents an hour, which was a lot.

Still, I didn’t dream of computers. Those were the things you saw in Science Fiction movies and TV shows, though most SciFi was about lizards that grew to astronomical sizes as a result of atomic bomb tests at Alamogordo, New Mexico.

My first day of school consisted of a long plastic pencil case with a sliding top that also served as a ruler. We had pencils, sharpeners, a “pencil bag,” if you were rich, and an ink pen with little plastic cartridges that popped into the pen that punctured the container to produce the black ink. It got everywhere.

We carried books and notebooks to write in. And we had white paste Elmer’s glue, which I spent many a daydreaming moment in 3rd grade eating because it was, after all, made from Milk protein. Classrooms had “Chalk boards” and we inhaled a lot of chalk dust when they were cleaned.

Back then, I loved milk. Now, I crave at least 15 cans of Diet Coke to make it through the day. And race wasn’t about your ethnicity, it was about whether you were Black or were White. That was it.

There’s a big concern today about bullying. When I was in school, a bully was just a training experience to help me get used to the concept of enforced taxation. I had no choice back then either when Tommy the Bully cornered me and demanded my “lunch money.” I handed some of it over from one pocket but kept the rest in a napkin in the other pocket so it wouldn’t jingle.

Most of my son’s books are actually text files in eBook form on the computer. He uses the Internet to talk to people, and spends a lot of time mastering Minecraft and PlayStation.

If an 8th grader gets in trouble, they summon a parent. When I was a kid, the teacher took care of the punishment directly. Ms. Monahan slammed me against the chalk board when I giggled too loudly with a friend. And many times, I sat in the corner missing lunch. Today, both would be the grounds for a lawsuit.

I think I grew up to be a pretty smart kid. I’m sure my son will be even smarter adult.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at

This post has already been read 60 times!

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites and (Illinois News Network at

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post,, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

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