The test of an education

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I feel a rant coming on. I am frustrated with the local
attitude towards education. We had an entire class of 20 students come to the
library yesterday. Their school no longer allows them to have field trips so
they walked to the library and spent an hour. No more field trips? Seriously?
It is a crime! They didn’t want a tour, they just wanted to get out of the
classroom for a little while. When I was a kid in the dark ages of education we
went to the local potato chip factory, McDonalds, the radio and TV stations and
the gravesite of Rebecca Winters (extra credit if you know who she is) as well
as our local national monument, the place somebody signed an Indian treaty
which they probably broke right away and down to the canal to catch frogs. We
also went a museum to watch some high school boys build a sod house. This is
what I remember off the top of my head after 30 years.

From these field trips I learned about how a production line
works, that McDonalds has a creepy basement, that a blind man can be a DJ on
the radio and how he used Braille, how a green screen works, that the family of
a woman who died on the Mormon Trail cared enough to use a precious piece of
iron to mark her grave, that our local monument is eroding every year, that
wars were fought right in our back yard and that you can catch and dissect your
own frogs without having to buy them from a warehouse somewhere. We also
learned that you can catch 8 male frogs and one female frog even though the
odds of that are slim and that sod is darn heavy.

 

And we want to deprive our children of this? It is what
makes school fun. It is like those overnight conferences I used to complain
about a little but I really loved because I got to network with other people
who were tackling the same problems I was at work. I came back refreshed and
energized.

 

It is the difference between applying knowledge and being
tested about knowledge. You can’t learn about nature by reading. Not really. I
know this from a college field trip. We took field trips in most of my college
classes and nearly once a week in some classes. We stepped out of the van onto
a high mountain meadow and the prof asked us if the area had been grazed
recently. I looked around and decided yes. I watched my classmates investigate
grass length and laughed as they tip-toed around fresh cow pies to do so. What
was obvious to me from my experience with nature was completely beyond them.
You won’t read about that in a book folks, not even The Principles of Range
Management
(which was an excellent text by the way).

 

This is why kids hate school. It becomes boring. Grade
schoolers especially need field trips every bit as much as they need recess and
lunch, just maybe not as often. That test isn’t going to get them anywhere in
life. It will not bring light to any subject, it will not make them think about
what they can be when they grow up, it will not give them any practical
applications of their knowledge, it will not incite compassion for others, it
will not help them understand that fresh cow poop comes from freshly grazed
grass.

I have not noticed a field trip scheduled for my daughters
this year. I am going to quiz their teachers about this. And I am gonna raise
hell if there isn’t one planned. Then I am gonna think about the school board,
because they cut teachers in the middle school and are now unable to offer HAL
classes. And I think I have at least two or three of those coming up. I
probably should also quit using the word gonna, but I like it for emphasis. I
also like ain’t for what that is worth, and I ain’t gonna stand for this.

 

In other exciting news, I typed this in Word then cut and pasted it. I cannot change the font size and for some reason it took my soft returns as hard returns. I am not gonna fight with it, but I have lost too many blogs because Xanga ate them before I got them posted. I am not sure what the answer is unless it is Blogspot or something like that. I am currently an unsatisfied customer.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. Albert Einstein

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OBL asked us to expound on education a couple of weeks ago.  Coincidentally my husband brought that subject up last night, so I will start with him.

 

Part One, GrandpaDaddy Experience rather than education lead him to his career

 

GD’s family emphasized work (mostly farm work) over education.  Never much of a student, that was okay with GD.  In his younger years he had the same lousy grammar school teacher for several grades in a one room schoolhouse.  After high school he took a couple of semesters of general studies at a community college.  During the next 20 years he worked at a meat packing plant, then a filling station/contractor as a bulk fuel delivery driver and pipeline installer, then as a shop manager at a tire store and finally as the store manager at the tire store. 

 

Each job for him was a step up, and he started pretty much at the bottom, maybe not pay-wise but definitely physical work-wise.  He said, “I never could have walked off the street and been hired to do this.”  He’s probably right.  His strengths are in understanding numbers, being enthusiastic about whatever product he is selling and in customer relations.  Had he taken courses in business, he might have started where he is now, but as it is he has valuable experience in mechanics and working with tires.  He doesn’t wander out to the shop in his Dockers and penny loafers to point stuff out to his employees; he crawls under the truck and shows them the easiest way to do the job, (and thank God he has a uniform service to do his laundry).  He plumbed and wired our addition.  He can fix our furnace and vehicles.  He did take propane classes, but he learned everything else the hard way.

 

My husband was not a great student; he wasn’t likely to complete the course to become a vet tech.  I think education is what you make of it.  Sometimes you can study hard and get a degree in your dream field and end up doing something completely different.  Here are some other course changes I know of:

 

– degree in political science now works with computers

– degree in education now politician

– master’s in psychology now cleans houses (and counsels people)

– degree in finance now a receptionist

– degree in finance now rancher/museum curator

– degree in microbiology also museum curator

– degree in agriculture/wildlife now a teacher

– degree in agriculture was delivery company manager now the guy who checks scales around the state

– degree in agriculture now mother, wait I still deal with diets, poop and herd dynamics, maybe it isn’t so far off after all

 

Part Two, Wildflowersp Education opened the door, curiosity led her down the hall

 

I was lucky.  I did not know what I wanted to be when I hit college but the Range Department made a practice of offering naïve freshmen $50 to declare Range then take a beginning course on the topic.  It was exactly what I wanted; I just didn’t know what to call it.

 

Somewhere along about my sophomore year in college everything began falling together.  We studied photosynthesis in general biology, one of my range classes and also in botany.  It made studying easy that semester.  But most of my professors, in soils, general bio, and chem, assured me that their field of study was integral to, possibly solely responsible for the very function of the Earth and existence of life itself.  I became concerned my badminton teacher would try to impress on me the importance of racquet sports on the future of civilization. 

 

It is likely that I have used some information from each of my classes in my everyday life, with the possible exception of chem.  I had two lousy teachers (one for two classes) so I managed to come out of my education with little knowledge of chemistry, however if I don’t know something, I am not afraid to learn about it.

 

I am still puzzled by the fact that I never took creative writing in high school.  An extra English/writing course really would not have fit in at college, in fact somehow I escaped Sci-Tech writing, but I have no excuse for high school. Because I was on the speech team my major prof let me skip Public Speaking too, and that turned out okay, I am a fearless public speaker.  

 

So my college resume reads: a bachelor in science from one university, an odd range class from a state college, an art class, two writing classes and a computer class from a community college and a welding class from another community college.  I could go broke getting official transcripts! I look at the community college pamphlet every semester when it comes out, waiting for the time I can work on my conversational Spanish or learn about philosophy, or maybe the basal ganglia (maybe not).  I didn’t quit learning when I got out of school.

 

I think learning is more important than education, but you don’t have to be in class to learn things.  Developing a desire to find out how and why things work is more important than being able to fill in the correct small circles with a number two pencil.  That being said, a certain amount of education is necessary, and if it is a struggle from the beginning, I think I would do my best to foster my child’s curiosity outside of school.