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

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

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, Hanania 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. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com
Ray Hanania