Every day of class my grade school teacher would share an anecdote about her granddaughter. According to her, this granddaughter was quite the individual and very advanced for her age. In every story she told there was a backhanded message: My granddaughter, who's much younger than any of you, is also much smarter than any of you. One day she told us that she observed her granddaughter cutting up the plastic rings from a 6-pack. While none of us questioned why a 6-year-old was drinking so much beer, she went on to say that she asked her what she was doing, and the girl told her she was cutting them up so it would "biodegrade." The teacher meant to show us her granddaughter's mastery of then-obscure words and a commitment to the environment at a young age. I exchanged a look with my neighbor Amanda. She raised her hand, "Uh, that won't make it biodegrade. Plastic doesn't biodegrade. She was cutting it so seagulls in the dump wouldn't choke to death." The implication of Amanda's correct observation of course is that not only is her granddaughter full of it, but that our teacher also had no idea what she was talking about. I didn't see my neighbor Amanda for several recesses after that.

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