Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Do you want to teach your kids something?

"If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger." Frank Lloyd Wright

Do you really want to teach your kids something?  Really? 

In the age of technology we live in, most of us count on our gizmos and gadgets to help us through our day almost everyday.  Is the road closed?  That's okay, use the GPS in your phone to find an alternate route.  Is the store closed?  That's okay, use Google on your phone to find an different store.  How do I feed these hamsters I just bought?  Easy.  Go on the internet and learn how.  What kind of rash is this?  WebMD knows.  There really are millions of ways technology shapes the world we live in.
"Man is a slow, sloppy and brilliant thinker; the machine is fast, accurate and stupid." William M. Kelly

I spoke with a friend a while back that said his son had called him and told him that all the electrical "stuff" is dead in his truck.  His son told him that it started and runs fine, but it doesn't have any headlights or tail lights. My friend was initially concerned, but then paused for a second and asked his son if he had turned on the headlights. His son replied, "You have to turn them on?" His 20ish year old son had never driven a vehicle that did not have automatic headlights.  This really got me thinking about all this technology in our world.  What will this next generation do if they have to solve these problems on their own?  I know it sounds a little silly, but think about it.  Could your kids figure out how to turn on the headlights when the switch doesn't even say headlights anymore?  All the headlight switches now just have generic symbols on them lest we discriminate against people that don't speak fluent English.  Back to my point though, what would these kids do if they have to figure this stuff out themselves?  I hate to be a doomsday speaker or a wacko, but what would we do if all these technologies failed?  What would they do without electricity?  What would our kids do with no real skills to survive?  Isn't it a big gamble to assume that things will always be okay?
"Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards." Aldous Huxley

Take almost any area of our lives and technology is in it.  Look at your wristwatch.  What would you do if the battery failed and you couldn't get a new one?  Would you wind it?  Or, would it become useless?  I imagine a discussion with a group of people comparing their watches in an braggish fashion.

"My watch is back lit and waterproof to 500 meters " says one person.

"Oh yeah?  My watch is back lit and the color of the back light changes with my mood.  It's waterproof to 600 meters" says the next person.

"That's wonderful, but my watch does all of those things and also measures my walking steps per day, my heart rate, my blood pressure,  gives me GPS readings of everywhere I have gone all day, and it is waterproof to 1000 meters" proclaims the next person.

Then, it comes to me.

"What does your watch do?"  They ask.

"My watch tells me what time it is.  Each day I wind it up and it's very accurate.  If I forget to wind it and the time gets off, I can reset it at noon with some sunshine.  It isn't back lit at all but I don't really care. If I need to know what time it is after dark, I can lean closer to the fire to illuminate the dials.  Since I don't want to see what time it is at the bottom of the ocean and I doubt I could survive at that depth, mine doesn't need to be waterproof to 1000 meters.   My watch really needs to be just waterproof enough so I can wash my hands and shower with it on if I forget to take it off without ruining it.  My watch does this all without batteries.  What will yours do without batteries?"

"Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink." Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I was trying to decide what is most important to sustain life if everything else in our world fell apart.  Simple enough, right?  Food and water would be needed by everyone to live.  Water more immediately important than food, but both are needed to survive any significant length of time.  So, you want your kids to learn?  Teach them to purify water.  Hopefully there never comes a time when they need to purify water to survive, but it's a great skill to have.  What if there is no bottled water?  What if you have to drink the river water or no water? Do you know how to purify water for drinking?  Do you know how much to set aside for daily consumption?  You should.  Your kids should, too.  It would be easy to have purification tablets or filters to should your kids how to purify water, but what should they do when they run out of those things?  Your kids should know to boil water to purify it.  Your kids should know that you can add small amounts of iodine or bleach to water to make it safe to drink if it is questionable.  If nobody teaches your kids this stuff, how would they know?  If they fail to make their water safe for drinking, they get sick and there is no readily available medical attention, what would they do?  If we have a technological collapse, who will be able to Google this stuff?  So, it's a good skill to know.

"Life's a garden, dig it?"  Joe Dirt

You want your kids to learn something else valuable?  Teach them to garden.  I don't mean that you should go to the store, buy a grown tomato plant, water it, and count that as gardening.  In a way, it's still a good lesson (a little like cheating), but what would you do it you couldn't buy a plant?  I think you should take it a few steps further.  I think you should buy seeds to plant.  You should find suitable soil to plant them in.  You should care for them as they grow.  You should fight off insects and rodents.  You should aerate their soil and remove the weeds.  You should harvest them as they mature.  Then, you should save your seeds for next year and do it all over again.  This is something you should teach your kids.  This would be a great lesson.

"Everyplace is walking distance if you have the time."  Steven Wright

Teach your kids to walk.  That's a great lesson.  Most kids you talk to these days seem to think that walking 10 miles is impossible.  Or, they think that if you can walk 10 miles that you are some sort of freak.  All generations of humans before ours did a lot of walking.  In the last couple hundred years we have become used to letting something else like a car or horse carry us.  Our bodies are incredible when it comes to exercise and walking.  Our bodies are well equipped to walk and can easily carry our own weight for many, many miles.  In fact, we can carry a lot more than our own weight for a long, long time.  What if a trip to town meant a walking trip to town instead of a drive?  Could you do it?  Would you do it?  It's something to think about.

"Technology... the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it." Max Frisch

Can any kids read a map these days?  I wanted to buy a map a while back and I see it is easiest to find one in a bookstore.  In days past, every gas station had them for sale.  Most gas stations had one posted for public viewing.  But now, if you ask for a map, they look at you like you just asked for lead shot your musket.  What would these kids do if we were unable to tell them how to get where they are going?  What would they do without GPS?  What would we do without it?  My fiance is a avid map reader.  I used to give her a steady stream of teasing about it, but she's right.  The ability to navigate with a map is a great skill.  The ability the navigate north, south, east and west without a map is even a better skill.  So, touche Amanda.  You are wise.

"What the country needs are a few labor-making inventions." Arnold Glasow

Teach your kids how to work.  I don't mean go to a job and run a cash register, although that's valuable, too.  Teach them to physically work.  Teach them that it's sometimes necessary and always okay to get sweaty and dirty.  Teach them that to get a job done, it's sometimes unavoidable to get dirty.  Encourage them to jump right in and help.  Our bodies can be washed.  Our clothing can be washed.  You cannot put a cost on sweat equity.  Teach your kids that there are many, many people in this world that aren't able-bodied whether it's from illness, accident or circumstance, but that those people wish that they could work physically.  Impress upon your kids that having the ability to work physically is not something to be taken for granted.  Trust me.  There are thousands of people that wish they had the physical capabilities that our kids do.  Our kids need to be mindful of that.  It's a good lesson.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." Albert Einstein

Teach your kids to help take care of those that cannot take care of themselves. When they are cutting wood, they can cut some extra for the neighbor not because they can get paid, but because it's the right thing to do. They can pick branches off of the neighbor's lawn and open doors for them.  They can help out others just to keep themselves busy. They need to learn to do these things for not reward, but just because. These days, it seems many of our kids don't want to be "bothered" visiting grandma or grandpa.  Or, they can't be "bothered" going to help out relatives.  As if our kids are really that busy? They're kids, right? Don't we plan their days for them?  They are never "too busy" to see their family.  They are never "too busy" to help out the neighbors.

"For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three." Alice Kahn

I think our kids just need to be taught. That might be the most difficult job of all.

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