Grasshopper Soup: Teach kids everything
May 25, 2010
To learn how to write, kids need to learn how to think, how to analyze, organize and understand their own thoughts and emotions. Self knowledge is the most important lesson anyone can learn, much more important than math and science.
Self knowledge is extremely difficult to teach, test and measure. But parents and teachers have to believe it can be done. Looking for ways to keep things from being taught is a bad start. The political business of adopting school text books, and the low priority given to music and the arts in schools, suggests weaknesses in our approach to education.
Writing and editing textbooks is essential, and any effort to do it intelligently and fairly should be highly commended, but some Texas and California school officials seem determined to make it more difficult and more time consuming than it has to be. They are focusing too much on trivia, when their entire focus should be on substance.
Everything we learn, we learn from words and experience. Words are knowledge. So why do some educators want to ban some of the most beautiful, poetic words in the English language, like and#8220;lumberjack,and#8221; and#8220;bookwormand#8221; and and#8220;founding fathersand#8221;? By banning words, all we teach children is that knowledge is arbitrary. All we do is eliminate them from history (words, not the children). Kids need more words, not less.
Words convey human knowledge and experience. Words take us back to different times and places. Words tell us about people. Words are only a problem if you don’t know what they mean. Some words are a problem because we know what they mean, but those are few, and we will never get rid of them. Words tell stories, and complete history. If we ban a word, we will never know the whole story. Kids deserve to know the whole story.
If we ban and#8220;founding fathers,and#8221; we should give Mother Nature equal rights and get rid of her too. The word and#8220;motherand#8221; gets more abuse than and#8220;fatherand#8221;.
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Lumberjack is a great word. It’s hefty and hearty and has red and black plaid flannel shirt with suspenders and hard work written all over it. I’ve been hearing it all my life, and I’m almost 60 years old. I’ve never known it to have any negative connotation whatsoever. Lumber is a tree product and Jack is a man with an axe. Oh, now I get it. We shouldn’t be cutting down trees, and men are primitive brutes who abuse women. The problem isn’t with lumberjack. The problem is, too many adults haven’t learned how to think.
It can’t be about cutting down trees because school officials want to replace lumberjack with woodcutter. Some people might even find woodcutter more offensive and frightening than lumberjack. If lumberjack has to go, we need to replace it with a word that is equally colorful and poetic, and offensive, like Redwood Wilma. Maybe sequoia trees would feel better if they were cut down by women instead of men. Make up words, don’t ban them.
Bookworm is another beautiful word. Originally, it referred to an actual, real live insect that feeds on the binding and paste of books. From there it evolved into the brilliant, and obvious metaphor of a person who has an above average passion for reading and studying books. Bookworms literally and#8220;get in to itand#8221;. That’s what kids need to do with words.
If there is anything offensive about bookworm, it can only be the image of worms eating books, which could remind us of our own mortality and eventual decay. Kids need to learn about that too, so what’s the problem? If the knowledge, thought and word experts are so sure that bookworm is a bad word, is superintendent salary increase any better?
School is for learning, not for diluting and purging history of words and ideas so only our version of it fits into a text book. There are more important problems to solve. We don’t need to add to the problem by making sure we don’t teach our kids everything.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 27 years.
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