When I was a kid I went to a very uptight prep school, where our performance on the SATs was, how shall we say it?: valued highly. If you got below a certain number on the practice ones, you were forced to take an internal prep course with the odious headmaster (who apparently had a sideline writing soft-core porn science fiction, but that's another story) in which you would be subject to his pronouncements on the imminent Death of the English Language, and other edifying spectacles. Or, if you couldn't bear that, you were allowed to read the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Good times!
Due to some failing in my overall togetherness at the time, I could never find the op-ed pages. I didn't quite know what I was looking for. I could find the Editorials, but that was it. I was loathe to ask my parents (why? I can't remember) so I would try to get through an editorial or two, and none of it made sense to me, and I despaired. The only things I liked to read in the newspaper at that time were the Ninas (oh Al Hirschfeld, how we loved you!) and Russell Baker, for reasons that remain obscure to me.
Well I am here to tell you that this does not have to happen to your children. My children and I have found happiness, joy, common ground, and a variety of other positive things I can't think of right now because it's too early, with our new New York Times Op-Ed game: find the dog on the roof.
Let me explain. I have a deep and abiding love for Gail Collins, the New York Times columnist who manages to make the darkest and most depressing things about our sad old world funny. Suddenly you don't feel as bad that our political discourse has devolved into hysterical idiocy because—it's funny! And so you can drink your coffee and manage one more day.
One of her charming idiosyncracies is her fascination with the fact that Mitt Romney drove to Canada with the family dog tied to the roof of the car. She cannot get enough of this. She mentions it in every single story she writes that concerns Mr. Romney.
That's where the fun begins. In what must no doubt be an extremely beneficial literary exercise for my children (right? maybe?) we now have them read Gail Collins in the morning. (Never fear: this was their own idea, particularly Diana, though they both dig it.) The challenge: figure out as you go through when and how she will work in the dog-tied-to-the-roof reference. First paragraph? Third? Will it be the lede?
This can also be a read-aloud activity for the younger set (or am I losing my mind here?).
There is no down side to this activity. You will head off to work thinking not "Oh dear God, this world is going to hell in a hand basket," but rather "Ha ha ha ha!" Your children will have some passing knowledge of current events and possible ways to view them. Even my creepy head master might have been pleased. Well, maybe not. All the more reason!