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A good memory is in the jeans

EVEN EINSTEIN asked questions. Well there's a surprise. But even if it doesn't flabbergast you, will it tickle the fancy of your students? Assuming, that is, they know who Einstein was.

This supposedly inspirational slogan is now part of a pack colleges can buy to display on their walls, aimed at intriguing and challenging their students. Others in the series include such gems as: "Success - don't just wish for it: work for it!" and "Today is a great day to learn something new".

But they're not all quite so banal. Consider, for instance, the following:

"Thirty years from now, it won't matter what shoes you wore, how your hair looked or the jeans you bought. What will matter is what you learned and how you used it".

Just so, I thought, when first I spotted it. That'll get the so-and-so's thinking about their real priorities. But then another little voice started up in my head.

This is a slogan aimed at 16-year-olds. Thirty years to them is like a hundred to me. And all I remember now of what I learnt at 16 are fragments: 1832 - First Reform Act; contour lines show height; light travels in straight lines (except when it goes round corners). Sines? Cosines? Forget it. I have.

What I haven't forgotten though are precisely the things on that list: shoes, hair, jeans. I have no idea what I was wearing at 30 or 40, but I can recall with absolute clarity the desperate importance of wearing the right clothes in the Summer of Love.

Take that delicious moment of holding your first pair of desert boots in your hands. The nearest thing we had to a desert in my suburb was the sand pit in the park, but in 1967 those boots were an absolutely must-have item.

And then there was the hair. This was no mere fashion - more a political statement. Letting it grow got you into trouble, of course, but then wasn't that the point? Every month or so I'd be invited into the headmaster's study to give him a little twirl. "I see it has grown again, Jones," he would say.

That seemed like a statement of the bloody obvious to me, but only teachers were allowed sarcasm in grammar schools, so off I'd trudge to the barbers to have a reluctant half-inch removed.

Jeans, too, said something about you in the late 60s. And the ones I wore mostly said: "up yours!" Today they come ready-ripped, but back then you had to work hard to get that "distressed" look.

First you scraped away at the cuffs with a pair of scissors. Then it was into the bath and out with the bleach. Pity that no one explained to one of my dimmer friends that you were supposed to take them off first, but at least he could claim to have invented the phrase "hot pants".

So no, I'm sorry. Whatever the slogan might say, it still does matter. And you don't need to be an Einstein to see that!

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