DOWNER’S GROVE, Illinois. It is a tradition almost as old as the nation itself if colonial records are to be believed. “Received my hot meal of Maize, Squash and Also More Squash,” reads the diary of Josiah Hay, a twelve-year-old boy who attended a one-room schoolhouse in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, during the 1778-79 school year. “Was tripped by a Spirit or Demon of some sort, and my school mates cheered my fall Lustily, Heartily and Facetiously, damn them all to hell.”
“Next summer, don’t plant so much zucchini.”
But at the urging of professional educators, this year many schools will adopt a strict code of “No Cheering for Cafeteria Pratfalls” as part of a movement that combines the features of the “No Bullying” movement with the trend towards national standards.
“Cafeteria Pratfall Ovations, or CPOs, are disruptive, offensive and disturbing,” says Dr. J. T. Norris, Superintendent of Schools for Saline County, Missouri. “They are also heinous and invidious if you’re taking this down,” he adds after consulting a dog-eared paperback copy of “Thirty Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary.”
Traditionally, a student who trips and drops a tray of food in a school cafeteria is greeted with sarcastic “cheers” unless the tripper is a fantastically bodacious girl like Nae Ann Ehrlich, the first girl at New Trier South Junior High School here to abandon her training bra for the genuine article. “I don’t know why I’m treated differently,” she says, batting her eyelashes coquettishly. “Boys rush over to help me, but when the same thing happens to Mary Beth Schoonmaker of the National Honor Society all she gets is jeers, catcalls, and lime Jell-O parfait dessert thrown at her.”
“Can I have some extra Tater-Tots?”
School administrators say the ban will be difficult to enforce, but hope it will break up “cliques” and enable students to better understand the lessons they go to school to absorb. “God knows we’ve got to do something to improve their test scores,” Norris says as he flips through the special preseason college football edition of Sports Illustrated. “Teaching seems to have no effect at all.”