Fall…is it here? Can we push aside the heat and humidity for nine months?
School has begun. That’s a good sign. Buses with kids carrying backpacks joyfully (?) get on and off buses. Parents wait and wonder if their child had a good or bad day. Were friends friendly? Were teachers stern but accommodating? How was the cafeteria food?
Did you learn anything? I’m not sure that parents get a very good response to that age-old question. I always dreaded that query; if not posed by my parents, it always hung in the air, even through college.
Education and history are on my mind. I’ll explain.
Recently my daughter and granddaughter visited Shanksville, PA., site of a national monument to those killed trying to thwart yet another terrorist hijacking of a plane supposedly headed for the nation’s capital. My granddaughter had not been born on 9/11/01.
She thought all of today’s intrusive but important security measures always existed. Weren’t cockpits always double-locked? Weren’t security checkpoints always an understandable nuisance?
My granddaughter learned a bunch outside a classroom by visiting a national monument born of tragedy. It was a sad but important teaching moment. She had to process senseless death and inhuman behavior. She had to understand that terrorism is a daily fear Also, she learned that air travel once upon not such a distant time was more relaxed, less fraught with security precautions.
Could she have learned the same in a classroom? I doubt it.
I’ve always wondered about the value of field trips, which seem to happen at the end of the year when teachers and students are tired, understandably. What lessons are intended?
I’m not trying to denigrate field trips—just a comment on experiential learning. Well-known to educators. I trust that educators will not consider me cantankerous and unappreciative of the opportunity to venture outside the bounds of a distinct classroom.
Last week I wrote about 9/11 and my effort to extract something positive from an immense blow to our homeland. I won’t rehash my comments. I just keep thinking about my granddaughter’s reaction when she learned that air travel once upon a time was more open and accessible.
Our lives were better. We were freer. Passengers felt tense trying to avoid missing a flight, not enduring personal searches and long security lines.
This nagging thought—that what happened in our past must never be forgotten or discounted— haunts me constantly. For example, I find myself telling my daughters about discrimination faced by women not that long ago. I do so because I want them to know how much society has changed, for the better in this instance.
When my determined mother decided in her middle age in the 1960s to get a master’s degree in political science at Johns Hopkins University, the dean asked, maybe implored her to explain why she didn’t just move on, forget an advanced degree and be content as a homemaker. She handled the insult well—and graduated first in her class.
Constructive retribution can be sweet indeed.
I understand that 2020 will be the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment legalizing suffrage for women. Easily forgotten, the suffrage law removed electoral bondage imposed on women by American culture since our nation’s founding. Women were second-class citizens when it came to participating in the democratic process.
And so many other society pursuits, such as jobs and equal pay, were often closed to women.
I started off this column by musing about the beginning of the school year. I then went astray a bit by discussing teaching moments available in our national history.
Our children and grandchildren can experience the good and bad about our American culture and history outside the classroom. That’s as it should be.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.