If you’re lucky, you had a least a handful of teachers who significantly and positively affected your learning. They stand out among all your teachers as being special and teaching you more than just the subject matter assigned. They taught how to understand the “WHY” of what you needed to learn and if you were REALLY lucky, they taught you how to continue to learn on your own without needing someone giving you assignments.
Mrs. Umholtz was one of those special teachers in my life. I learned a lot in that 7th grade class. I learned about the stock market by pooling my dollar in a classroom investment. She taught us poetry and made us memorize some classics like The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (I know my friend Liz can still recite it!) and High Flight. More, I bet, but that’s all I can remember after 50 years. I learned state capitals. I learned the changes in Africa as nations there were gaining their independence from colonial powers. I learned how to research and write reports that included complete sentences and coherent presentations that the reader could understand.
I learned what many other kids and many adults never have: I learned how our government worked. We discussed each branch of government extensively. We had to memorize (oh yes, she was big on that) the names of LBJ’s Cabinet and learn the responsibilities of the various Executive Branch departments. We learned about how Congress enacts a bill and visited our statehouse in Trenton, getting an insider’s tour since one of my classmates’ dads was a Representative. We learned about how the Supreme Court, as the highest court in an extensive judicial system, gets presented with appeals and goes through a selection process to only hear the ones that actually are about points of law.
Our world is spinning seemingly out of control right now. Arguments and fighting seem to be the way it goes now. Unsupported boasting is believed and causes distraction while changes are being enacted quietly in the self interest of the people who hold power, ignoring they are our representatives and we voted for them.
It seems in the past year my writing here on this blog has turned more and more to commenting about the social and political aspects of life here in the US and how disturbing issues are. Not only the causes but the fact that no fix is presented. It seems we have become us versus them. It is hard to engage in any dialogue with anyone who does not hold a similar viewpoint.
Let’s start with some basics. Why not a system in our communities to educate all residents how the system works. What the community does to take care of the needs of all of us. But the basic understand must happen before we start arguing.
Can we do that?
And can we learn to present our opinion in a way that permits others to listen?
And please test yourself…..how much do YOU know about the basic issues of our nation? This is the basic knowledge you should know.
January 11, 2017 at 1:36 pm
Ha! See you mentioned me. But, you give me too much credit for memory. I only recall verses 1-4 and verse 13 of Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride. That said, I recall Carl Sandburg’s Primer Lesson (‘long boots’) in its entirety and frequently recite it to myself as a reminder to hold my tongue and temper. Much like you, I too like to think that ‘everything I need to know, I learned in 7th grade with Mrs. Umholtz.’ Poetry, conjugation, geography, and civics – those lessons comprised ‘basic knowledge’ that have served me well. Wish there was a way to bottle that integral knowledge base and share it with the rest of the U.S. population! – LIZ
January 11, 2017 at 4:26 pm
If we could learn it at age 12 and 13, others can. The research I found indicates it is no longer on the tests that measure achievement so no longer in most curriculum. I think we need to change that….let’s see where Trump’s Secretary of Education takes us. She wants to eliminate those tests supposedly. Do you think the Republican party that believes they are the more patriotic would support educating the citizens about our nation?