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The fact that our daughter went to college and got a pet does not bother me. What bothers me is that the pet is a cockroach.

There is nothing like a large cockroach the size of a deck of cards to stretch the parameters of the word pet.

How can a cockroach be a pet? It is not furry, does not have a tail and does not come when called. If it did come when called, your gut instinct would be to grab the Yellow Pages and beat it to death.

Our daughter will tell you that the cockroach is not truly a pet; it is part of a scientific study for one of her courses. She is one of those elementary-education majors the other students make fun of by saying things like, "El-ed: The only major that requires crayons and colored pencils."

Well, let me tell you wise-acre business majors and engineering students something right now. Those cracks are completely out of line because, on my daughter's campus, el-ed majors are not using crayons -- they are using cockroaches! (Just doing my part to restore dignity to the teaching profession worldwide.)

No, the el-ed majors were part of that cluster of students you may have seen on the campus green weighing themselves on scales, then strapping one of their own to a harness of sorts and instructing her to attempt to pull three fellow classmates standing on the contraption behind her.

Afterward they went inside, and it is best that they do this type thing inside, and hitched cockroaches to harnesses carrying Petri dishes. They then filled the Petri dishes with screws and coins and made them pull more than 37 cents and the entire contents of Bob Villa's tool belt, only to make a fascinating discovery: A cockroach can pull 48 times its own weight which seems impressive until you consider the fact that your average college freshman can pull 372 times her own weight in shopping bags from the Gap and Limited.

I like this entomology class. I like it a lot better than some of the other college classes our kids have taken that thump America, bash capitalism and mock morality. We could improve the entire college scene by making entomology in education part of the core curriculum. (Contact your state senator now!)

My only concern is the attachment developing between the cockroach and the student. She says it's not a pet, yet she has named him Bertie, built a little tent for Bertie out of cardboard and knows that Bertie's favorite foods are Grandma's Chocolate Chip cookies and Cocoa Puffs. Bertie does not like sliced bananas, which, you may be interested in knowing, grow hair after being sealed in a plastic box with a roach for two days.

And then there is the question of what happens to the roaches when the class is over and the experiments are finished. As education majors, the students' natural inclinations will be to organize graduation exercises and outfit the roaches with little black robes and miniature mortar boards. No doubt, one or two roaches will be designated as graduating magna cum larvae.

And then what? Send the roaches to grad school? Back to the nest to live with Mom and Dad?

There is one scenario that is nowhere in the picture catch and release. I made my daughter give me her word on it. She even gave it to me in writing. Blue crayon.

Knight Ridder Newspapers

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