Monday, March 23, 2009

FAR Future, Episode 78: School’s In

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Wednesday, November 28, 2035
School’s In


OK, Serena thinks I really am old and decrepit. She might be half-right. But thanks to everyone pitching in, including Bobby, we had the apartments ready in time for our new boarders. Seems to be a recurring theme at FAR Manor, huh? Call them… the Smiths and the Joneses. Close enough.

Speaking of Bobby, his new best friend is Martina Smith — she’s his age and he’s spent the first week showing her everything around the place. Sean and Mary (her parents) were a little apprehensive at first, but when Pat’s not in school he’s taking the day shift in the pasture, so there was plenty of firepower in case any critter (two-legged or four) were to give trouble. As for boy/girl stuff: 1) they’re 10. 2) kids these days have no modesty whatsoever anyway, so it’s not like “playing doctor” is any thrill. I guess that happens when you spend winters sharing a house with two or three families — after a while, you just stop worrying about walking in on someone… from there, it’s a short step to polite not-seeing and then to doesn’t-matter-anyway. Meanwhile, the kids all have to pile into the bathtub together (with one at a time, only the first few would get warm water), so they’ve known little different. From the privacy perspective, the new folks were thrilled to have their own apartments, even if they’re a little small. They said on the way up here, they were wondering what they might end up with — there are stories already going around about people who are making their guests sleep in tents or the living room floor, some real horror stories. I wonder how much of that is promised help not showing up (like what happened here), and how much is people just taking the government stipend and not bothering to provide for their guests.

Ray Jones is like 6 years old, so he would have been on his own except that he and Pat hit it off somehow… don’t ask me what a half-alienated teen sees in him, or vice versa, but the oldest and the youngest are buddies. It doesn’t seem to bother the Joneses, or maybe it bothers me more than it should. It’s good to see Pat taking an interest in someone other than himself; he just seemed to be pulling himself into a shell before. His homework is starting to turn around, and he’s talking about signing up for music come spring semester. Ray and Martina didn’t take long to adjust to school — their schools were very similar in structure and use the same textbooks for all but one or two courses. Bobby and Martina help each other with their schoolwork, naturally, while Pat helps Ray with reading and math. I guess they spend a lot of time out at the tree house in the pasture.

School is a lot more fluid than it used to be when I was a kid… but back then, school wasn’t taught by volunteers with the county facilitating the community centers, administering tests, and furnishing textbooks and lesson materials. Most of us rotate teaching various classes, except that Serena always does creative writing and drama (there’s some prestige for our little school, having a known playwright on the staff) and I end up doing history. Daughter Dearest, being part of the school system staff, does most of the admin work for our group and teaches music (which might be part of what has Pat alienated; he wants to take music but not from his mom). I once suggested that Luke come up and teach important skills like barbecuing and mixology, but I got voted down. Luke said he wouldn’t have the time for it anyway; even during the fall and winter he gets traffic coming through.

I got a fun handout for history on Monday, it asked me to go over a list of acronyms and phrases you don’t hear anymore. Some of them took me back:

SUV
Homeowners’ Association
Supertanker
Religious Right
Mainframe
Jumbo jet
OPEC
FedEx
Landscaping
Muscle car

Since there were ten items, and ten kids, I cut the list up and had each kid draw one. Then they had to look up the term they drew and make a short presentation about what they found (the way I teach history, the kids absorb it almost by accident — while developing research, writing, and presentation skills). We ended up in a long discussion about the religious right, their connection to the junta years (2014-2022), and why “normal” people (who were a majority) didn’t do much to stop it. That lead to a discussion of 20th-century politics, then on to the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and the Revolutionary War. We ran wayyyy overtime, and cut into Rene’s biochem lesson, but he’s pretty understanding about that sort of thing. The kids can cover a week or more of material during these afternoon stream-of-consciousness discussions, even if they nearly wear me out. Sometimes, I feel like a mouse on a Google hunt. But when we get to the late 1700s again, we’ll breeze right through it and Rene will catch up. But that was just the first presentation. A few of them should dovetail together (like SUV, OPEC, and supertanker), so we can do all three presentations before triggering the info-tsunami.

I asked Rene once what he thought about teaching a class using his sister’s book. “It can’t be easier,” he said. “If something doesn’t make sense, I just give Christina a call.” Lucky him — how many teachers would even think of calling Dr. Cardenas-Roszinski with a question about The Circle of Life: Elementary-Level Biochemistry (3rd ed.), even if they could hunt down her office number? Then again, they would just call the school support staff and get the question answered nearly as quickly.

Our community center isn’t terribly fancy: a hall that we use for classrooms or community meetings, bathroom, the remote medassist room with an outdoor access, a serving area that abuts the covered outdoor kitchen, plenty of insulation to keep the place easy to heat. Maybe 2000 square feet, plenty of room for a school of 10 in a community whose population breaks 60 only if you count the animals. We put it up in 2026, during the Restoration, using materials and some labor furnished by the government. The Boy, and Kim and Christina, painted two murals on opposite walls, depicting how 21st century society has developed… one from order to chaos and order again, the other from machinery to humanity. I’ve used them in the history lessons.

continued…

9 comments:

  1. Hey Far! Damn good thing your got History 101, eh? Heh! I suppose you might add another word "elite" to your list,(if you had another student). I can remeber when I first went on BNB and suggested that the word "elite" might become a forgoten word in short order. Maybe not the ruling class, but those whose names that are familar now...

    The Smiths and the Jones, eh? Think the Smiths will be trying to keep up with the Jones in the sense of what might be implied today, then?

    Thanks, yooper

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  2. Yooper, "elite" hasn't quite gone away yet… one can hope it'll happen in our lifetimes though!

    I wasn't thinking of the Smiths keeping up with the Joneses… actually, I was thinking of that old TV show, "Alias Smith and Jones." A fairly intelligent Western.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Far! This is definitely one of my favorite blogs! (if not the favorite) I just love your mix of stories, your family life and projects. ha! Your wisdom from leading a realistic, down to earth life, ain't to bad either!:)Guess growing old isn't so bad, after all. At least we can do 'er together!

    Thanks, yooper

    ReplyDelete
  4. Enjoyed the latest post, I like it that education is continued in the future, even in trying circumstances. I live within 3 miles of where my g-g-g-grandparents settled 190 years ago and know a little bit about living without electricity and modern utilities. Don't think most people realize the labor intensive nature of life without the Rural Electrification Authority (R.E.A.), really changed life for my family, and when it goes it will be yet another change! Have been reading FAR Future for several weeks, got caught up during a snowstorm a few weeks ago when I could not leave the homeplace and have been reading the updates each Monday(or Tuesday). Found the link to FAR Fetched at Clusterf*ck Nation-like reading the posts by James Howard Kunstler-don't like the tone of most of the comments as they are very scarcastic, negative, well you know how it is, though I do continue to read the column as I agree with Herr Kunstler's basic thesis about our culture/economys' continuing decline. I probably have more hope than many people because I see from my perspective of history that we often do good things in spite of all the nastiness of our human nature. Anyway, I really like the whole thing of education continuing in this difficult future.
    Pax, Barry

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Far .. and what a very nice post :)

    Love the lesson about how our quality-of-life has a lot more to do with what we do with the others around us, and how, than with the shiny toys we've bought via Mastercard or Amex. One not need own much to be happy in the here-and-now.

    Of course, the folks running the credit-card scams ^H^H^H companies and selling useless doodads wouldn't dare dream of letting us figure it out for ourselves. Hence the constant drumroll of exhortations, from birth to death, to consume, consume, consume!

    Barry, don't be put off by Jim Kunstler. He's got a lot of good stuff to say, and besides, you might find some kindred spirits in the comments section following each post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey all!

    Thanks much Yooper, I do appreciate you & all those who come & read — and especially, comment.

    Barry, welcome to the free-range insane asylum! New episodes go up Monday morning at 7am (Eastern); I also put a notice on Twitter (where I go by FARfetched58) shortly afterwards. I know what you mean about the comments at JHK's place; I try to raise the tone sometimes but the other regulars do what they like to do. Hope you continue to come by!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey Nudge - simul-post!

    Good point about the consume consume consume thing. It's the proverbial treadmill. I just don't think they'll be able to keep it going, by force or any other means, once the go-juice doesn't go anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Far. I really like those last few lines. A nice summing up of recent history, or at least what it will be in 2026.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey Boran… more like 2035; the community center was built in 2026. But yeah, in my mind's eye the murals are really something. I wish I could show them to you.

    ReplyDelete

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