Nitpicking And Other Lice We Tell Our Children
By Lorenzo P. Niñal

I tell you what deserved attention that week: children dropping out of school because of lice. I said lice, not lies. But the TV network that aired this important piece of information decided to relegate the news to the end of the broadcast, near that part about a gay actor suing a gossip columnist for libel. Why! It’s a gossip column for Christ’s sake. What did he expect, a COA report?

When that little boy swam across the Hilutungan Channel two weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised. The sea is that boy’s habitat. My research showed that the boy had gills. His parents, both sharks in their past lives, built an aquarium for him so he would grow up to become an adopted fish-boy of a city denied of land-based heroes. Now, little boys who read the news are taking swimming lessons to become world class eels someday.

Competing with the fish-boy story was that of a girl who decided she had enough of this world’s ills, so she hanged herself to send a message to the President that every child has the right to own a bicycle. If you think I’m making fun of the report, you’re right, because I don’t believe that the poor girl killed herself. She was raped then murdered. The police are now gathering evidence to prove me right.

I tell you what deserved attention that week: children dropping out of school because of lice. I said lice, not lies. But the TV network that aired this important piece of information decided to relegate the news to the end of the broadcast, near that part about a gay actor suing a gossip columnist for libel. Why! It’s a gossip column for Christ’s sake. What did he expect, a COA report?

Anyway, the news said the worst threat to our children’s education these days comes in the form of wingless insects about 1/16 of an inch long each and living on the scalp of grade one to grade three pupils. It has to be grade one to grade three because it’s the age where children scratch their heads when they can’t answer 7 times 8. You think they’re doing math? No, they’re scratching lice.

The report said children are dropping out because there’s nothing in their heads anymore but lice. Lice are the epidemic of the head, the news said. Lice prevent clear thinking because they suck out brain cells. They are responsible for the bad decisions our children make, like allowing their parents to pressure them into pushing the limits of their endurance and mutating into, well, fish. Did you just say there’s no parental abuse there? Hah!

In case you forgot, lice were the insects our parents warned us against. They were the tiny creatures that would grab us from our sleep and hide us in the woods where we become lice ourselves to carry on the terror; so we bowed our heads for nitpicking. Nits, by the way, are eggs from adult lice that give hair a brilliant, glittering look.

Parents are aware of the connection between lice and primary education. The news said parents of lice-infested children fight the epidemic with chalk. They pulverize the chalk and rub it on their children’s scalp. Or following one “Miraculous Insecticide Chalk” manual, parents write “Sampung Mga Daliri” on their children’s scalp. The premise is that lice hate school as symbolized by the chalk. Since there’s no chalk at home, parents ask their children to steal some from the classroom.

This naturally alarmed the Department of Education, who promptly ordered schools to strictly enforce time-tested nitpicking policies. If you’re following me, nitpicking starts at the elementary level. And this activity is so addictive that it continues after the child finished elementary and marched on to become a public official.

Excuse me. I’m nitpicking here.