Friday, February 25, 2011

Reality Town, Yo

I signed up to volunteer for Reality Town at the beginning of the school year when I had good intentions. I didn't know what it was but I like Lowly Worm. I like pig police officers. I like cats in lederhosen. How bad could it be?

It wasn't bad at all. In fact, it was quite interesting. Reality Town is a program for Jr. High school students where kids get fake check books to buy cars and houses and pay bills. I was stationed at the Recruiters booth for kids who wanted to join the military. Make no mistake: it's called "Reality Town" but it's not actually real. I'm not a real recruiter. Kid weren't really singing up for the reserves. That would be a good trick.

So we ask them why they want to join and give them a quick aptitude test and then we pay them $173/month. If they have any schooling past high school they get the GI bill on top of their monthly pay. Sweet deal, no? I thought their careers and education were just randomly assigned. So I was kind of surprised that all the kids who were sort of dumb on the aptitude test had crappy jobs with no education. It sort of made me feel bad. And of course it was the kids who needed money the most who wanted to join the military. It was so awkward. Then I found out the jobs and education were given to students based on their GPA and I felt even worse, but it also made sense. It was kind of awful. But also fun--it's just Jr. High. Those kids still have time to pull up their grades. I'm an optimist!

There was this one little cliche who made me sad though. She couldn't pass the test and had no formal education (on her fake Reality Town card). As she walked away after not joining the armed forces she gazed at the volunteer dad who was working at the booth with me and cooed, "I like your eyes." Later she came back because she was totally broke and had figured out how to cheat on the test (all the answers were A). She faked her way through the test with a group of friends who looked me straight in the eye and said, "Let's see. I think the answer is. . . A?" Oh, honey. I'm scared for you. But welcome to the army reserves! Yikes. If she asks my son to a girl's choice dance in the future I will plan a family vacation.

On the lighter side of Reality Town there was  a delightful little PhD candidate who  needed extra money to pay for the horse she had purchased. She loves horses! Maybe we can find her a nice position in the cavalry. And I had to chuckle as at least half of the kids who listened to my spiel and passed the aptitude test took out their checkbooks to pay me after I had signed them up for military service. "How much is it?" Paying the army to let you join? Priceless.

As for my own son, he ended up with a bachelor's degree and a job as an air traffic controller. He has a stay at home wife and a 7 year old son. He opted for a cell phone but no cable and chose the moderate grocery plan which allows for generic cereal but no frozen waffles (see if I ever buy those again). He bought a condo (a great little starter home) and a Honda Civic Hybrid (I'm tearing up a little with pride--a HYBRID!) Sure he's got student loans to pay off but he saves on child care with his stay-at-home wife and because I volunteered he started with an extra $200 in his bank account--and that is basically what you will learn about parenting if you read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers.

Blink. Blink. Blink. Did anyone ever tell you that you have beautiful eyes?


  1. Our school starts this program with Biz Town in 5th grade. I get to go on Monday. I think it's too much to cram into a few hours, but I'm amazed with the program. Lots of real"ish" stuff that teaches the kids they have to work. I'll have to check and see if Evan gets extra $ for my endeavors.

  2. My husband and I loved this post. Thanks for the laughs and thought provoking scenarios you described.

  3. That sounds super fun to me, actually. And scary (because I know where 70% of the kids in my girls' school will end up, and really, how many drywallers or bartenders does a small town really need?). Anyway, I read Outliers last year about this time and I LOVED it. I would use it so much if I were a teacher because it's such a testament to hard work. I loved the Beatles example. But wait, I forgot the magic many hours was it? Anyway, I think this post is all good life lessons.

  4. I've never seen this done in our schools. I will have to ask around about it. But we are under something called "program improvement"and we pretty much can't do anything that isn't related to the California State Standards.

    There seems to be little or no concern for real life!

  5. Oh MY! This had me laughing so hard Kacy. I should probably be offended somehow here since I am a military wife but you are just so darn funny.

    It is true that lots of people join because there are not many options available to them. Kids better learn that early I guess.

    Bless you for volunteering your time!

  6. My oldest daughter's school does that. I still have a kid at home all day, but maybe I'll volunteer once the guy is in 1st grade. Sounds like fun - and educational.

  7. I read your blog pretty regularly because you are SUPER funny. This post was equally as hilarious, but I have to agree with you that it is sad to base the careers on the kids' GPAs. I'm sure the school was trying to motivate those with the low GPAs, but embarrassing them with the crummy jobs at Reality Town isn't the most appropriate way to do it. Maybe if they bribe the students with pizza for making the honor roll...

  8. Reality town? Oh man. I wish we would have had something like that when I was in Junior High!

  9. You are all about reality these days: the Bachelor, the Welcome Baby visits (bringing home a newborn is a one-way ticket to reality town). I love it!

  10. The only thing that will make this post better is if it's followed up shortly with your Bachelor recap.

  11. I wanted to comment as soon as I read your first paragraph but figured I should probably read the rest ;)
    "That would be a good trick" Have you read Little Bee by Chris Cleave? Good book, little sad but hey. She says that all the time because she's from Nigeria.
    Your son sounds like he's on the right path already. I think that program is great! I wish my school would have done something like that, it would have made me think more. I am currently the stay at home mom though which is all I ever wanted to be, loving it.

  12. Anonymous11:18 AM

    My 8th grader did Reality Town a little while ago and didn't make it sound nearly so fascinating. I will have to press him for more details.

  13. My oldest son came home from Jr. high a few years back and told me, "I'm going to be a gy-knock-o-logist for Reality Town!" I asked what that was, he wrote it down for me (gynecologist) and I, suppressing laughter, asked if he knew what that was. He responded, "Who cares? I'M RICH."

    Awesome. I love telling people that my boy was a gynecologist for a day.


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