Save the Children

As a 30+ year teacher, I can tell you that something in our society has drastically changed in the last two decades; something so deep and pervasive, it is changing our way of life.  This is a pretty dramatic claim, if I say so myself, but I believe it is true, and many people in our society are beginning to think along the same lines.  Have you noticed how hard it is to engage a young person in conversation?  Have you noticed that many people, young and not so young, are actually missing the events that take place around them because they are totally engrossed in some kind of electronic media, whether it is a phone conversation or music?  Have you noticed the absence of children playing outside, riding their bikes or playing in a sandlot ball game? Have you noticed that the attention span of our children is decreasing at an alarming rate?  Have you noticed that many children seem to be more docile and easily swayed to do things that they probably should not?

If you have experienced these behaviors, then you yourself have probably not succumbed to the lure of electronic media.  Make no mistake about all of this; the lure is powerful and as addictive as any narcotic out there! There have even been thorough and credible studies done that show the endorphin levels of a person rise every time the cell phone rings.  (In case you are not familiar with endorphins, they are the body’s way of making us feel good.)  To make matters worse, we live in a very stressful society!  The evolution of modern technological society is moving faster than our-only-left-the-cave-10,000-years-ago body and brain are capable of comprehending.  This could be the reason we are in the middle of a drug war that we are losing, and an electronic mind numbing-experience we do cannot afford to acknowledge!  A large percentage of the population is running away from real life and burying its head in the proverbial sand.  Our children are being indoctrinated at a young age to accept modern technologies as part of every day life.  Teachers cannot compete with the undeniable, alluring excitement that a computer game can offer; instead, educators have introduced the computer in the classroom to replace some of the instruction.  I have no problem with computers, in the classroom but it is important to remember that the computer is a tool, not an instructor.  The next time I hear that we need more technology in the class room, I will get sick!  An example of the first experiment done with technology is the calculator.  With its insertion into the classroom, students’ ability to use their multiplication table has fallen to the point that very few high school students can even tell you what 8X7 is. I believe that a student should not even touch a calculator until he is doing algebra.  Lasting learning is about experiencing the world, interacting with people, experimenting, falling down, getting up after a fall and looking at the stars at night and saying “WOW!”  Learning is NOT about i-phones and computer screens; it’s about real life experiences!

Fear of the Unknown

Recently a biker (pedal) stayed with us for the evening.  He was delightful young man who was biking across the country from Albany, Oregon, his home town, to Virginia Beach.  Every time we get a visitor, it sets my mind a-going.  Many of our friends cannot believe that we allow strangers to stay in our home, sleep in our beds and have the free run of our house.  We have done this for almost 40 years and never had any type of problems: no rapes, no shootings, no thefts or anything out of the ordinary.  Recently a young man stayed with us who was pushing a cart half way across the country.  He remarked that in Europe, pedestrians on foot or bike are a common occurrence, and camping out in a wooded or vacant area is about as normal as a person walking down the street.  Here in the states one risks being turned into the police or chased out at the point of a gun for setting up a tent in a field.  Why are we so afraid?

After a good nights sleep, Scott get ready for another day on the road

Our country or culture seems to be overwhelmed with fear.  We fear foreigners, neighbors, strangers, terrorist, hooded men, people with too many tattoos and most anything out of the normal, everyday routine.  This is akin to a child who is hysterically afraid that there are boogie monsters under the bed or creatures living in the closet.  Even though I have not traveled much outside of our country, I have talked with many from other parts of the world and have asked them if fear is so pervasive in their country, and the standard answer is, “no.”

Of course, if we dress up really well and walk down a dark street in a rough community, we may experience real fear.  If we carry a gun, our chance of being involved in a shootout increases, as would our fear.  This is all common sense to me.  So the question begs to be addressed; why are we Americans so fearful?  Fear is so presently ingrained in our politics that one has to wonder if the very nature of political confrontations is rooted primarily in fear.  As we approach the 2012 election, we are bombarded with sound-bite after sound-bite as to why our way of life is so threatened, and if we vote improperly, our world will end as we know it!

By locking ourselves in a closet and refusing to allow the world to enter out of fear, life becomes little more than a meaningless existence.  The spice of life is all the stuff that can cause pain at times but usually makes our ordinary existence more interesting.  Sometimes when I am gazing up at the night sky I wish all people could experience the awe and fear that goes with having some idea of what the universe could throw at us at any given instant!  If you want to experience fear, study astronomy!  It will scare the crap out of you.  Meteors, sunspots, solar flares, gamma ray bursts, super novas, black holes– any one of these could wipe out the earth quicker than you can say Jiminy Cricket, with little to no warning! So I guess one could say that fear is a relative thing.  Here in the United States we have decided to bring fear down to a very personal level and ignore the real disasters lack lurk in the closet. I forgot to mention all the catastrophes that mother earth can throw our way: volcanoes, earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis, prolonged heat waves, massive swarms of insects, weird bacteria and viruses to mention an incomplete list!  My feeling is that we need to enjoy life fully, work hard to make the world a better place, marvel at the immensity and grandeur of our universe and enjoy every precious moment that comes our way!  One way to do this is through interesting people.  Every person you meet has experiences, thoughts and knowledge that could potentially make your life better, and in return, make their life richer.