“Climate Change Ate My Homework” Tops New Student Excuses

DNIEPERVILLE, Minn. For Emily Hartpence, the beginning of a new school year this month brought a mixture of elation and dread. “It’s good to be back with my friends,” the freckle-faced fifth grader said, “but I’m afraid of long division.”

Coupled with those mixed emotions is a sense of life’s unfairness. “I can’t have a dog because of my allergies, so I have a pet turtle–Cindy,” she says. “All the other kids get a pass by saying ‘My dog ate my homework,’ but Mrs. Ilmberger”–her fourth grade teacher–“would never believe that a turtle at somebody’s homework.”

Cindy: Not her fault.

But a segment on earth science last year, coupled with a media bombardment that leads young people to believe that the world is coming to an end because of climate change, gave Emily an inspiration that leveled the playing field for her. “We’ve tried to instill a sense of competitive grievance in her,” says her mother Faith, a former banker. “She’s not going to get into Wellesley with a lackadaisical attitude.” Emily’s creative solution was to blame not a pet but the vague foreboding of environmental disaster for her failure to turn in a math worksheet on Friday: “Climate change ate my homework,” she announced nervously to Eleanor Huff, her fifth grade teacher. “I may be able to get it to you on Monday.”

Huff was caught off guard, and was unable to counterpunch since she has spent the better part of an hour each day since school began telling her students that they were doomed to die soon because their mothers drove gas-guzzling SUVs and their families lived in large, central air-conditioned homes. “I’m naturally skeptical of student excuses,” Huff says, “but I think it’s important that we listen to the voices of young people, such as Greta Thunberg,” the Swedish environmental activist known for scolding older people for creating the conditions in which she can live in comfort. “Who are we, who have despoiled the earth, to argue with whiny children who in a more rational era would be told to go to their rooms?”

“How DARE you question my scientific credentials!”

Nationwide, “climate change ate my homework” claims account for 28% of all late assignment excuses this year, followed by the traditional “dog ate my homework,” “I thought that was due tomorrow,” and “I was held hostage in a home invasion and the thieves took my yellow highlighter.” “Global temperatures can fluctuate because of everything from underwater volcanic eruptions to nuclear explosions on the surface of the sun,” says climatologist Willard Naper, “so climate change is an excuse that’s never wrong.”

Hartpence hopes her newly-contrived excuse will get her out of completing the assignment entirely, or at least buy her some time. “I figure if I can kick this down the road until October,” she says, “we’ll all be dead and it won’t count against my grade.”



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