Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mad as a Hatter

Yesterday Dylan and I went to see the new Alice in Wonderland as interpreted by Tim Burton. Visually captivating, and fairly interesting, as it points out how Alice had few choices in her life--given that she was a woman in the 1800's--I thought it wasn't a total waste of ten bucks. As we left the theatre I asked Dylan if she knew why the "mad" character in the movie was a hatter, as opposed to a cook, or accountant. She didn't know and I explained to her that hats at that time were predominately made of felt and that felt contained mercury, which is poison for humans. I further explained that the effects of mercury would often render those working with it "mad."

I love it when I can sneak in some history when her bandwith is so finely tuned into the pop-culture. When we watch Lost, I can tell her that John Locke shares his name with a certain English philospher, and the hooting and hollering heard on American Idol isn't much different than the noises the ancient Romans made cheering gladiators. It's the educational equivilant of sprinkling bran fiber on her cupcakes!

As a history major, I'm not a fan of text books; how can you possibly grasp of the nuances of the American Civil War when it's encapsulated in a mere five pages? And as a traveler, history not only comes alive, but it is downright necessary to be on a first name basis with the"why's" of history to understand modern-day "hows", which few, if any textbooks can offer. But your average high school student is not a history major, and what little bit of history she's going to learn probably comes from your high school text book. This is why I view the most recent news coming out of Texas with a certain dread reserved for root canals and military expansions. While it may seem that revising history to include a more "christian & conservative" leaning may be the fate of children whose parents chose to live in Texas, the effects are sure to seep beyond the border since Texas is one of the largest markets for text books. Yes, kids in Colorado could also be subject to the whims of the Texas Board of Education. Of course in this age of Wikipedia (which Dylan is learning is NOT a definitive source) perhaps the effects of educational decisions made on a regional basis will not be widespread, but in school districts where the populace tends to lean conservatively, and computers are a luxury, I doubt it.

It seems that education is under assault more than usual lately. From the national level, where Obama and team are proposing new educational standards--which if unfunded--doesn't really change the game, to Kansas City Missouri losing half of its schools due to low enrollment, to our own drama here in Portland, our kids are bearing the brunt of diminishing resources. The Portland School Board is looking at the same solution that Kansas City has adopted; closing a couple of high schools due to low enrollment and proposing a modification of the curriculum in the remaining schools since schools, like McDonald's, exist in a universe where the more you can cram into a room, the cheaper you can serve them. This may be a model that works well for selling lattes, but is this the philosophy you want to embrace to educate our future workforce? I guess if you embrace promoting capitalism as part of your curriculum, you may as well walk your talk. But it leaves me thinking that Wonderland remains an endearing tale because we too often see our world reflected in the crazy, assbackwards thoughts of the Mad Hatter.


Post a Comment

<< Home