Tribute to the One-Room Schoolhouse

Monday, September 26, 2011

My mother and her mother attended the same one-room school: District No. 1 in Danville, Iowa. This picture was taken in 1977, long after Mama's school days. By that time, the building had been decommissioned as a school and converted into a house.

When Grandma went to No. 1 in the late 1800s, it was a true one-room school. By the mid 1920s, when Mama started, the big room had been partitioned into two. But since the smaller room was merely a foyer, the students still shared a single classroom.

For those of us who never went to a one-room school, there is something romantic about the idea, and my mother has good memories of her early school years. Still, I'm not sure I want to go back to the days of coal stoves and kerosene lamps and outdoor toilets.

Although Grandma never went farther than her classes at No. 1, she got a good education there and excelled in arithmetic and algebra. My grandfather attended a different rural school until he was twenty and left after eighth grade. That was a common situation for farm boys, whose duties often kept them out of school. But their persistence shows how much they valued education.

So why am I reminiscing about this now? Mostly because my mother recently received an inquiry from the current owner of No. 1, who wanted to know what the building looked like when it was still a school.

There is another reason, though. Mama believes she got a good education at her one-room school, where teachers cared about teaching and students were willing to learn. (Mama went on to high school and college and eventually became a teacher herself.) In contrast, my husband teaches in a "modern" city school and frequently complains that some teachers don't teach and many students don't want to learn.

Of course, the old rural schools didn't always do the job well, either. Teachers could be hard to find, especially for the small schools in isolated areas, and students didn't always pay attention in class. Still, there were fewer distractions, and the pupils went to learn rather than to play football or basketball.

And sometimes I wonder if this country wouldn't be better off with a few more one-room schoolhouses. 

It's Easy to Believe a Lie

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why do people believe lies that should be easy to detect? Usually, it is because the lies promise things the listeners want badly.

When we were cleaning out my mother's house, I came across Hansi: The Girl Who Loved the Swastika. Now out of print, the book is a memoir by Maria Anne Hirschmann, who was known as Hansi while a dedicated member of Hitler's elite Youth Corps.

Maria grew up in a foster home, and although her foster mother was loving, her foster father was cold. As a teenager, she just wanted to belong. When she was selected to attend one of Hitler's new Nazi schools, she thought her dream had come true.

Maria's foster mother was a devoted Christian, and when Maria left for Hitler's school, her mother said, "Don't ever forget Jesus." So Maria was confused by many of the things she learned at school. Among other things, she wondered if it was wrong to pray.

When Maria asked a beloved teacher about prayer, the teacher gave her a copy of Wanderer Between Two Worlds by a Nazi writer. The author's mother had taught him to pray for protection, so he decided to see what would happen if he didn't. After several days without anything tragic happening to him, he decided he didn't need prayer. Maria tried the same experiment with the same result, so she dispensed with prayer, too. It wasn't until years later that she realized the experiment had been deceptive.

Deceptive experiments are also an effective way to convince people to invest in something that sounds too good to be true. In one type of scam, a telephone solicitor would call sixteen people and tell them that the solicitor could predict the direction the futures market was going. Of course the people who received the calls were skeptical, so the solicitor said he didn't want them investing yet: he just wanted them to give him a chance to prove himself.

The swindler told eight people that the price of heating oil would go up the next day, and he told the other eight that the price would go down. The next evening he called the eight he had given the correct "prediction." But he still told them he didn't want them investing yet. Then he told four that the price would go up the following day, and he told four that the price would go down. By the time he narrowed the field to two victims, they threw their money at him.

Why are people so willing to believe? Usually, it's because they long for what the lie offers. The people who fell for the investment scam thought money would solve their problems, and they wanted to believe they had found the path to material riches. Instead, they lost the money they already had.

Maria wanted to belong, and she thought that giving up God would get her there. But after the Nazi regime fell, she discovered she had given up the thing that mattered most.

Satan used this same ploy in the Garden of Eden. He told Eve that if she ate from the tree in the center of the garden, she would be like God. But, having been made in God's image, she already had what Satan promised. No, she was not God, but she was as much like Him as she would ever be. Satan created a longing for something more, and when Eve listened to the lie, she tarnished God's image in her.

When we let our longing rule our heads, we make ourselves gullible.

Because it's easy to believe a lie.


Monday, September 12, 2011

On November 21, 2008, I stood in a building overlooking the World Trade Center site and took this picture of the construction work going on where the Twin Towers once stood. It wasn't the first time I'd seen the site since 9-11, but it may have been the first time I had a camera with me.
The next day I was in New Jersey visiting my daughter, and she took me to the September 11 memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation. Although it doesn't show up well in this picture, the memorial has a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline. A skyline that is missing its once-defining twin feature.
For me, September 11, 2001 began in a conference room in Chicago waiting for the weekly management meeting to start. As usual, we had a video hook-up with our New York office, located only a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center. It was around 8:00 a.m. Chicago time when the manager of our New York office asked if we had heard anything about a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers. At the time, everyone thought it was a small, private plane that had strayed off course.

A few minutes later, Joe received a message, said that the building was being evacuated, and left abruptly. The New York staff got out safely with no physical injuries, but they spent months in temporary work quarters before being given the okay to return to the building.

Our building in Chicago was evacuated, too, because of its proximity to the Sears Tower. I got home just after noon and sent an e-mail to my family assuring them that I was not in New York on business. But it wasn't until I got a frantic call from my daughter, who was away at college, that I realized I should have used the telephone rather than just sending an e-mail.

My company used to hold two Board meetings a year at Windows on the World at the top of Tower 1, and I usually went. I even got stuck on an elevator on my way up to one. I sometimes browsed the shops in the concourse, and I had recently purchased a trench coat at a Banana Republic store that vanished with the towers.

Of course, it wasn't the loss of the buildings and the stores that made the day so tragic. Bricks and mortar and steel and glass can't feel, and they are alive only in a metaphorical sense. The tragedy comes from the 3,000 people who died and the countless others who lost a friend or a family member or their sense of security

Still, the amazing thing about 9-11 is not how many people died but how many lived. Cantor lost about 800 of its 1,000 employees (the other 200 apparently weren't in the building), but Morgan Stanley lost only a handful of the almost 4,000 employees working in the middle floors of Tower 2.

Let us remember the living and the dead and all who were touched by the events of September 11, 2001.

I, for one, will never forget.

Laboring Under the Sea

Monday, September 5, 2011

Submarines usually make people think of Memorial Day more than Labor Day. Still, the soldiers and sailors of World War II were laborers, too.

The picture is the USS Silversides submarine, which Roland and I passed as we sailed through the channel at Muskegon, Michigan.* The next morning we walked to its mooring at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum.

We started in the land part of the museum, where we found equipment from World War II submarines and exhibits on submarine  history. This is the only time during our vacation that I asked Roland to take a picture of me. Here I am as the periscope lady. (And yes, I maintained that sunburn during the entire trip.)

After we were done with the museum building, we boarded the USS Silversides. She is credited with sinking 30 Japanese vessels during World War II and damaging at least 14 others. As you can see from the picture at the top of the post, the submarine was a tight fit for the 80 men who lived and worked on it. Not the place for a claustrophobic sailor.

Nor for someone who is 6'5", as Roland is. This picture shows him entering a hatch. Yes, I said entering. He climbed through it backwards.

The submariners used every inch of space. The men who manned the torpedoes even slept with them. If you look closely at the next picture, you can see the torpedoes over the bunks. The black hole in the middle is the torpedo tube for firing them.

Whatever could go wrong, would, so the crew had to cram the submarine with spare parts. And practically every other inch of wall space contained instruments. Here are just a few of them.

We visited one more piece of history before leaving the museum. The last picture shows the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter McLane, which patrolled the Alaskan coast during World War II. It is less than half the size of the Silversides, but the 30 men it carried had a lot more room to stretch their legs.

Happy Labor Day to everyone who works for a living, and that includes stay-at-home moms and dads. But I'm sending a special holiday greeting to those who currently labor in the military and to the veterans who labored there in the past.

Thank you for serving.

*All pictures in this post are copyright 2011 by Kathryn Page Camp.