FFTAMA: A Place of Udder Bliss

Close your eyes and try to remember junior high. Can you smell the Axe body spray wafting down the hall? Can you picture the back acne of the student who sits in front of you? Can you visualize the rubbery chicken rolling around your red cafeteria tray? Can you feel the excruciating pain as the orthodontist tightens your palate expander? Can you recall anything you learned in the hours spent memorizing the elements on the periodic table or copying down Latin declensions? Really, anything at all?

Very few people peak in middle school. When I asked my closest friends and family about junior high the majority got visibly uncomfortable. “That was a dark time,” they whispered. Most likely they spent these years in braces and glasses, popping pimples and hoping not to fart in class. In junior high, you are expected to navigate the trickiest of social waters and master the new waves of work, while somehow staying afloat. Not to mention, your voice starts to crack and hair begins showing up in places you never thought hair could grow. I’ll never forget the sting of my first razor cut when shaving my legs. There is no more nap time and you have to schedule your own play dates, but you still need to ask permission to use the bathroom. I’m not sure what the science is behind it, but everyone seems to get a little bit more obnoxious. Middle school is a world saturated with insecurity. 

This is why I humbly propose to alleviate the pain of these traumatic school years by rounding up the all the awkward adolescent eleven-year-olds, putting them on a bus, and shipping them off to work on a farm until high school. This utilitarian strategy will allow us to take advantage of these able-bodied individuals and make them productive members of society. I’m not saying we put them in sweatshops or have them traffic drugs; that would be cruel. They’ll just get the opportunity to scoop some manure, feed some animals, and harvest some grain. No longer will kids endure clique-filled cafeterias, memorized facts stuffed into five-paragraph essays, and intimidating locker rooms where you have to change as fast as you can so no one can tell you still wear a flower-patterned training bra. For a short while, kids will be able to smell the fresh air instead of BO, appreciate nature, and create produce to get our country out of debt. I call it the “Farm for that Awkward Middle Age,” or FFTAMA.

This system will not just be beneficial for those who get to escape junior high, but also for the rest of society. Who enjoys being visually attacked by the revolting sight of a middle schooler? Our program will ensure that others do not have to be pained by the sight of their oily skin, greasy hair, lanky limbs, or that one small piece of broccoli that got stuck in their braces at lunch. We will ship away all of these whining brats who have recently realized that their parents aren’t the all-powerful gods that they once looked up to. Families will enjoy free time and extra space. Get creative! You can design a meditation room, rent the space out for some cash, or store the extra produce your hardworking kids are sending home. You can even take up a new hobby you have always wanted to try like woodworking. We expect that the new room for activity will inspire innovation, leading to increased entrepreneurship and a lower unemployment rate. 

The schedule will be simple at our utopian fields. The rooster will cock-a-doodle-doo each morning at 6 a.m. If the kids aren’t woken up by the bird’s sweet music, our farm leaders will have buckets of water on hand to help them have a refreshing start to their day. No more wake-up duty for you, moms! After a quick healthy breakfast, the adolescents will be out to the fields by 8. Morning activities will range from seed planting, to cotton picking, to cattle herding, to field plowing. We will make sure to keep the kids safe and hydrated. Bandaids will be kept on site for blisters and a couple water breaks will be given when the temperature reaches above eighty degrees. In the afternoon, there will be “adventure hour,” where we send the kids out into the wild for 3-4 hours to learn survival skills. They will be taught how to make an emergency fire signal in case faced with attack. This is all a part of our mission to mold them into responsible and independent citizens. For dinner, beginning sharply at 7, the kids will kill and prepare one of the animals they have raised. They will spend up to a year with their pet, feeding it with organic products and nurturing it. We will then teach them the best way to butcher and prepare it to be enjoyed by the rest of the campers. This exercise is designed to teach them compassion, resilience, and patience. Finally, it will be lights out at 9 p.m. (if they have finished their chores), leaving the kids no time for temptations, like spin the bottle. 

Our little paradise is designed to reshape the adolescent experience. For example, the organization would eradicate sources of bullying. My middle school dealt with taunting and teasing by putting up posters with profound phrases like, “being kind is cool.” This certainly did not stop Zach* from coming up with “the Emily touch,” a game where you had to immediately wash your hands if “dirty ugly Emily” touched you. At adolescent farms, everyone is dirty. It won’t matter who grew boobs the summer after fifth grade because in overalls, it won’t be clear who’s hot and who’s not. 

 I can confidently say that adolescents will learn more on the farm than they would in junior high. I cannot count the number of times I heard a high school teacher say, “try to forget the way you learned it in middle school.” This applied to writing, science, and even math. In English, we attempted to understand the Diary of Anne Frank before learning about World War II. In Biology, we made models of the inside of a cell out of candy but never learned the names of its parts. In Spanish, we spent four years making sure we knew how to pronounce the colors and numbers. If middle school students aren’t ready to absorb worthwhile material, they might as well learn how to milk a cow or hoard sheep. 

With the creation of FFTAMA, no one will have to replay a horror movie in their head when they think back to ages eleven to fourteen. Instead, they will remember star-lit nights, laughter with friends, and just a little manual labor. The road to victory may be long, but I can already smell the grass and manure. And so, my fellow Americans, I ask you to close your eyes again. This time, however, picture a kinder youth, a saner household, and a more united nation. If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity, if you seek liberty: pledge your allegiance to the “Farm for that Awkward Middle Age.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of adolescents