Posts tagged learning

The Oregon Trail and the Modern World

The Oregon Trail

History Majors are an ever-smaller group at our university it seems. If we aren’t finishing a degree in Computer science, business, accounting or the like, there is little need to get in line at the job fairs held on campus or at the mall. In my mind, that of a Public History Research major from the 1980;s, our “learning” is s far out of date we have little chance of being noticed. Yet, as I see my youngest son, obsessed with his computer and coding, never picking up a book to read, unless it is required, I see more and more need for courses to be required in subjects that teach us not only about the future, but how we got here. Who we are, where we came from and the process of learning are just as important to a Computer major as to one of us poor “do you want fries with that’ majors we used to joke about 30 years ago.

I may be wrong, but this photograph looks like one I once saw of the Oregon Trail. It was amazing to me that over a hundred years later, the ruts from the hundreds of wagon wheels traveling somewhere west of where ever the settlers had begun were still visible on the tall grass prairies which led settlers not only to Oregon, but many other places which, today, are as crowded and crime ridden as the ones these brave souls were escaping when the trails were made.

As a historian, genealogist and general lover of the studies of past places, countries and ways of life that lead us to the unbelievable places we can go today, I find learning about these cultures and how they thrived and often ultimately died of fascinating interest.

I admit, I almost agreed with some of my older children when they called the “Humanities” courses “Department Funders” In other words, they had no real use in the modern world. But as I get older, I have changed my mind. Hear the news about Vladimir Putin taking over the Crimea reminds me quickly of the horrors of Sevastopol during the wars with Great Britain in the 1850’s. It reminds me that thinking an event, or one similar to it will never happen again, is not only foolish, it is simply wrong.

I encourage all Universities, colleges and Even Technical Colleges to require students to have some knowledge of world history so that they can have a basis on which to prevent the errors of the past from repeating themselves.

And, lastly, I would like to see today’s children understand why they have the technologies they now possess and what their ancestors endured in order for them to live their lives of luxury, or at least,lives of hope.


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Some Things Never Change

Mommy was busy hanging out the clothes. It was a warm spring day and the country wind felt so good after a bitterly cold winter. Her skirt was blowing in the wind, a soft blue cotton, one of her favorite “everyday” dresses.

She couldn’t believe it was 1960. She had gladly moved to the country when her husband was transferred last fall. That is where she had grown up. She could hear the children playing down the hill. Their giggling was music to her ears. Even work seemed like fun here on the farm. There was no time for boredom. The day was filled with cooking, cleaning, working with the children, doing the laundry.

“Mommy!” a shrill voice echoed up the hill.

Mommy turned and ran down the hill where her four year old son sat in the muddy grass, half laughing, half crying.

“What in the world happened?” Mommy asked the little boy.

“I was running down the hill and fell on my ass!” he giggled.

“Jimmy!” Mommy scolded, you know better than to talk like that!”

“Johnny said it the other day.” The child said as he stood up and tried to brush off the dirt. “He said his sister had a big ass, and then he laughed.”

“Do you know what that means?” Mommy said.

Johnny patted his bottom and said that was what it meant.” He smiled.

“Well. Let’s don’t say that again, it isn’t a nice word.” Mommy smiled as she hugged the little boy.

“Mommy, I don’t think Johnny’s sister has a big ass.” He said as he looked up innocently as his mother began to hang clothes on the line again.

“Boys,” sighed mommy, “ There is just no hope. Even from the little ones.”

She shook her golden locks and went back to hanging the clothes. She knew that the more she said, the more enticing the “bad word” would become.

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We are ALL Teachers!





We often find ourselves asking  children what they want to be when they grow up, and they invariably come up with  a familiar list of answers. Dreamy eyed, gap-toothed children smile as the tell us with confidence, “I am going to be a professional ball player” or perhaps, an actor. The more logical child will tell us that they want to be a doctor, a nurse, a firefighter, or policeman. A few of them will tell us they intend to become a teacher, and I nod my head in the knowledge that in fact each of them will become a teacher, whether they intend to or not.

It seems that a great many of us are not aware of the effects that our attitudes, behaviors, habits or reactions have on the younger generation. By working in our public schools, I have seen the great influence that we can have on a child, although it is often years later, if ever, that we hear about that influence.  I was fortunate to hear the story of a child that I had worked with nearly a decade earlier as a “reading buddy”.

I had never realized that I done anything other than simply volunteer my time.  A friend of mine, who was a teacher, was kind enough to share with me the contents of a report that one of my “reading buddies” had written. When asked to write about a person who had a profound influence on their life, this young person chose me. I was both honored and mystified,

The young lady wrote that I had done much more than read or recite poetry to her when she was a young child, she said that I had listened to her thoughts and fears, that I had given her a much-needed hug or word of encouragement.  I listened, misty eyed, as the teacher told me that the young lady had been inspired by me to recognize her own worth, and  see herself as strong, confident and capable. In my mind, I had always felt that the children I worked with had done much more for me than I had for them.

As a mother of six children, I had the opportunity to be both friend and mentor to many of my children’s friends and acquaintances. It is an honor that I am still called, “mom” or “Beebee” (my grandma name) by many of  them. Now, years later, when I see their children’s reaction to a cross word or hurtful comment made in the spur of a moment,  I remember, from years ago,  that same look on their faces, the dejected, head held downward look, as they felt that somehow, they were not “good enough“, even for their own parent. It was profoundly sad to me that these young people were, without realizing it, projecting the same hurt on their own children that had bruised  their young spirits years before.

The reaction of both my former “reading buddy” and that of the young parents I had know as children, simply served to confirm my contention that each of us is an example to someone, in essence, a teacher.

It is vitally important for us, as middle aged or older adults, to remember that what we say or do, how we react or even fail to react is being watched by some child, teen or young adult. That kind word, encouragement, or praise may go much further than we realize. Likewise, a thoughtless comment, an unintentional smirk or, worse yet, an immature reaction may make someone think it is “OK” tp behave in that manner.

We must always remember that to others around us, we ARE teachers, whether we intend to be or not. Let us always act in a way that will show our best to the adults or parents of tomorrow. Like water spilled from a glass, we never know how much our reactions may travel.


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When one teaches, two lea…

When one teaches, two learn.

Robert Half

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