Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Gamboo

By H. Linn Murphy

Wow. Can I say this summer was short? Normally I welcome the advent of a new school year with open arms. Woo hoo! The house stays clean for days at a time. The food consumption and subsequent refrigerator grazing goes way down. But mostly it's quiet

I have time to write and think, without their music or distracting shows on TV blaring through my ears. That's a good thing for a writer, yes? I have plenty of time to hatch plots and instigate mayhem. Bad guys who can never shoot straight, beware.

But it's so quiet that I tend to fall back asleep after I get back from taking the cusses to Seminary and school. Little things like laundry and a new ceiling drip chip away at my concentration. I find myself going to the fridge to graze.

What have the little bounders done to me? They've infected me with the Summer Gamboo. I break out in a rash at the sight of school supplies in the stores (which for us sneak in just as the Easter paraphernalia clears) and not just because they cost their weight in gold bullion.

I sit here and remember my summers of long ago, the proxy ache for my children's lost lazy hours filling my head. My legs itch to run through the fields of sunflowers for them. I can feel the icy chill of the slough water on my skin. There is a cow (or is it an elk?) munching its cud just off my right shoulder. I look up through the branches of the tree spreading cool leaves over my self-made fort and I sigh for my children, who only know how to kill imaginary things with big guns and magic sword buttons. 

My parents forced me to weed an acre of garden. I learned what eats tomatoes and which weed has to go. I had forty-five rabbits to feed, water, and care for. I learned responsibility, and that death can take you at any time. I had to feed, water, and milk a herd of goats. I learned to be industrious, and that the work would be there regardless of how much I wanted to sleep in. We had a barnful of chickens to feed, water, and gather eggs from. I learned that you can't always tell the healthy rooster from the sick ones. 

My parents also dragged me off to Europe twice. The lessons I learned there I will never ever forget. I learned to catch trains, to speak the language and be polite. I learned about history from the places where it was made. I learned that getting along sometimes means you get pounded on for no good reason at all. I learned that you don't ever take pictures at Checkpoint Charlie in East Berlin before the wall comes down. I learned to love great art and architecture, music, and dance. I went to Dachau and East Berlin and my senses taught me how it felt to live there.

I couldn't have learned all of that in a couple of weeks a year. School teachers have the whole rest of the year to try and cram knowledge into their subjects. Frankly, I find that the preponderance of those teachers can't. They teach to the AIMS test. They often hate what they do. Many have little understanding of their own subject. Often they despise the people they're trying to teach, and that comes through in their lessons. Some of the new teachers my children have are foreign and no one in class can understand anything they say. Also, their school isn't a state-of-the-art school and is up on the chopping block for possible extinction. Which means that teachers are leaving the school like rats fleeing a sinking ship.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a teacher's daughter. My father taught German and English. He was strict and I learned most of what I knew from him. I personally have taught both art and critical thinking skills. So I'm not bashing those teachers who are good at what they do, and/or love their work. 

I'm knocking the ones who hold our children hostage with R-rated movies and mindless twaddle because they are too lazy to fill the hours with actual valuable knowledge the kids can use in their future lives. They fall back on garbage when there is a whole wide world of ready knowledge right at their fingertips. I'm also knocking those who stop teaching facts and start in on conjecture and spinning lies instead of facts. Summer is my time to debunk many of their myths.

I'd like my children to learn about why Europe went on Crusade to the Middle East and why few of them came home. They should learn about why our Founding Fathers felt they needed to break from a tyrannical government and govern themselves. Teach them about the reasons a man fought on one side of the Civil War and why his brother fought on the other. I'd like them to know about Hitler's regime without watching people getting shot on Shindler's List. There are so many other stories which came out of that era. 

These are things I teach them, not the current school system. That is why I regret the hours the school district has stolen. The school system opines that the children forget things. My answer is that everyone forgets things. That's what review is for. They do those review for the first nine weeks anyway (if not more). They can't convince me that chopping off most of the summer will boost the amount our children learn at all. That cow left the barn years ago when I compared European schools and ours. Ha! They don't compare. I know, because I tried to get into a German high school and they laughed at me. I graduated in the top ten in my class.

How I would have howled to have my summer snatched by the school thief on the first of August, of all things. First of all, there was very little time to play after the chores were all done. And we had no TV for a long time. The one we finally got wasn't worth the time and my parents rarely let us watch it. So playing/reading time was precious. We used it to re-charge, to learn about our world (like that you shouldn't run with a glass jar full of tarantula or you might trip and find that thing sitting on your face), to visit other worlds, or to explore ours.

One and a half months is not enough for all this re-charging and re-making and world visitation. The school district's excuse is that they have given us extra weeks off elsewhere. I don't know about you, but it's like when your grandma gives you a package of panties for your Christmas present instead of something cool. Thanks Grandma. And TUSD. I want their summer back.

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