Thursday, January 23, 2014

Goodbye Max

Today I had to say goodbye to the best hiking partner I've ever had. He always had room for me in his schedule. He never complained on a hike, and he always wanted to go.

Max was either thirteen or fourteen.  I could never be sure of his age because I "adopted" him from the pound.  I had to pay his bail to adopt him.  Before I took him home, he was a regular at the pound.  After his former family had to pick him up from the pound four or five times, they left him there.  That's were I found him.  I saw him outside, taking air with the other dogs.  He pleaded with me to take him home.  I knew somehow that he was the dog for me, so I adopted him.

The pound workers were disgusted with his former family for not keeping him home.  After I had him for week, I couldn't be critical of the former family anymore.  Max was an escape artist. I think he had claustrophobia too because he hated a fence, a rope, or a closed room.  After being shut in my garden, a pretty good-sized area, he climbed out over the eight foot wire fence and walked down the wood pile.

Max was a favorite with the grandchildren.  I remember my granddaughter Stacy writing a letter to Max.  I didn't get a letter, but Max did.  I could trust him with my grandchildren.  He put up with loads of attention from children and babies, even when he was old.

 Max loved to run. He loved to be completely exhausted. I like to remember his first hike at Nary Time Gulch.  Talk about the joy of living, that was Max on that hike.  Afterwards, he jumped into the truck, dog-tired and happy.   During hikes, he would tear into the trees and across meadows, just for the joy of running and jumping.  Although, there were times when he came sprinting back to me, and I was seriously worried about what was chasing him.  And an encounter he had with a moose once, had me worried about my continued existence on the planet.

I distinctly remember twice when I was hiking and lost the trail.  He located it again for me. His finding the trail made the difference between turning back and continuing on.

Max loved children. He loved attention.  He loved the outdoors. He loved  going wherever we were going.  Goodbye, Max.  Until we meet again.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Public Education

This is probably a damnable heresy, but I am starting to doubt that public education is a good idea. This week, a friend discovered from her 12 year old son that the art teacher had a showed a U-Tube video during class that dealt with the art work of Salvador Dali. In my friend’s view, the art and the narration in the video were about as appropriate for her son as it would be to release rattlesnakes into the classroom for a study of zoology.  

The crux of the problem is widely divergent values that have taken root in our culture since the 1960s. Our nation has lost the moorings of a mostly Christian/religious ethical base. Our morals are rocking like a canoe in a hurricane. As this happens, what's a teacher to do? And what's a parent to do as schools hire teachers from this value vortex? There are parents and teachers who have an established moral code, and they can tell you what the code is. There are parents and teachers who are disciples of churches that teach Hollywood principles, "Do anything you want, and we'll make you feel good about it." There are parents and teachers who advocate anything legal if it promotes achievement, regardless of morals and ethics.  And there are and parents and teachers who simply don't care what goes on as long as no one bothers them. 

With such a wide split in values, morals, and ethics, some young teachers enter the classroom with no more notion of what would be appropriate for children from different value-structures than I have of quantum physics.

Add to the value vortex the artsy philosophy that anything called “art” has merit and therefore is above criticism and the mess gets gooey.  My friend's experience illustrates this values clash.

There are an abundance of people who are desensitized to what used to be a moral “no-brainer.” For instance, when my son was about eleven, we let him sleep over at a friend’s house. He and his buddy spent half the night watching R rate movie after R rated movie.  It never occurred to me that a responsible parent would rent R rated movies for eleven year olds.  It never occurred to them that anyone would object to the movies.

Over the past two decades, this value separation is growing more pronounced.  Case in point:  no ever thought of homeschooling when I was a child.  There were some children who lived on ranches so far from a school that the kids stayed home and took classes over the radio, but that was the extent of homeschooling.  

I don't see how public education can work when those with decided values are mixed with those of shifting values.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Relaxed Days of Summer

As a kid growing up  in the 1960’s and 70’s, there really wasn’t much to do in our Montana town.  We had no soccer, gymnastics, Grand Street Theater etc.  We didn’t let the lack of organized activities stop us from having fun, though. Without any direction or permission from adults,  the neighborhood children planned and executed  hikes up Mount Ascension, baseball games, tennis (in the street) and kickball, to name a few of our sports.  Neighborhood children worked together to produce plays, using the Hooper’s front porch as our stage.  The play production never achieved fruition, but we had a fun time “writing” and “rehearsing.”  Whenever we liked, we took to the hills and made two armies to play “war.”  We hid behind rocks, trees, and drew maps in the dirt to illustrate our strategies.

 I remember an idea we culled from the movie Swiss Family Robinson that kept us occupied for a morning. My friends and I dug a hole in the empty lot next door, covering it with branches and twigs.  Next, we lured someone’s little brother to walk over the camouflaged hole.  Little brother fell into the hole.  Fortunately since we grew tired of digging at about 15 inches, the fall wasn’t far.

From the time I was six until I was eleven or so, we spent almost every summer evening, playing hide and go seek, or kick the can at Larson’s house.  They had a large, open lawn for running.  Summer evening fun always ended when the street lights flickered on.  That was the signal for children to go home. If you didn’t go home, parents in those days would call you – not by phone.  Any time your parents wanted you, they would holler for you from the front step of your house.

Kids’ sports for eight to eleven year olds were limited in those days.  There was Little League for the boys and City organized softball for the girls.  Little League was always held in the evenings.  Parents would sit in their cars and honk their horns when their team got a hit.  Girls’ softball was held in the afternoons at a field that doubled as the City ice rink in the winter.  Parents did not attend the girls’ softball.  I suppose I should have been highly offended, but I never thought about it, so I was never insulted.  I just had fun. 

Since we lived in town, our parents didn’t give us rides very often when I was a kid.  I walked to swim lessons (held in June at the YMCA downtown.)  I walked to softball games and practices.  I also walked to school unless the temperature was below zero.

It is true that I never had many of the opportunities that children have now.  Upon reflection, it seems that kids now don’t have some of the opportunities I had. I enjoy thinking about the times I had playing with neighborhood children as we created our own fun and organized ourselves.  I suppose every time in history has its pros and cons. During that time, our parents let us participate in sports just for the fun of it.  Parents didn’t seem to be driven to raise college athletes or Olympic “hopefuls.”  I am happy with the opportunities I did have.  I am grateful to have grown up in a time that was more relaxed.