12 Things I’ve learned (so far, but I'm only 63):
1 -1960’s - In Melbourne, Florida, I saw a giant billboard of Martin Luther King, Jr. sitting in a child’s old wooden desk with a caption of “Martin Luther King in Communist School”. I knew what this man was doing and this was slander! Who paid for this, I wondered? I learned about segregation and integration first hand.
2 - 1960’s - When I was eight years old and my dad (regrettably, I thought) handed me a fishing rod just before a 6’2’’ sailfish swallowed the hook. I landed it, but the first mate made sure I stayed in the fishing boat. Now that I’m a mother and grandmother, I understand how proud my Dad was of his little girl and I wish he was still alive so we could go fishing again. I learned to fight and that I had to do the work.
3 - 1960’s - My father worked in the space race industry for Chrysler. After Nixon’s election, I realized how politicians lie. For miles, signs reading “Nixon’s For Space” ran down the sides of A1A. Much like 92 in the morning, it was normally bumper to bumper with people driving to the Cape. After the election, it looked like Radiator Springs in Cars. I was happy to be learning to drive at the time. Eventually, my Father would be laid off five times in four years, not through anything he’d done, but last hired and first fired was the rule. Being in his late 50’s was his biggest liability. He traveled from Florida to Massachusetts to find work. I learned politics affects jobs, the economy, and thus people’s lives.
4 - 1970’s -“They Almost Stole America”. Research the senator who said this and find out why! I watched the Watergate proceedings because I had a night shift job at Disney World. During the recession, I wanted to hit this 20-something jerk who said, “What we need is another war to stimulate the economy. “ I learned some people had no concept of caring about anyone but themselves.
5 - 1970’s- I graduated from college only to find nine Orange County schools began their school year bankrupt due to the cost of paper rising in three months. Toilet paper was hoarded! Orange County had three brand new open classroom schools (save $100 with every corner left out), but had no money to hire teachers. My teaching internship was in Kissimmee and that system required high school literature teachers to teach kindergarten because the board of education riffed teachers with up to six years experience. I learned seniority counted. I moved to Georgia and started teaching fourth grade in Ringgold.
6 - 1978 -The Love Canal – “Love Canal here as an industrial dump, 82 different compounds, 11 of them suspected carcinogens,” One residence displayed “Give me Liberty. I've Already Got Death.” (http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/lovecanal/01.html). I learned the environment is fragile and we need to do a MUCH better job of taking care of it.
7 -1980’s - Our children were born in Calhoun, Ga. The bills would have been worse if my husband and I had not both carried insurance. My hospital bill had a typo – a $250 charge for $0.25 can of juice. I learned to look over our bills very carefully.
8 - 1980’s – Bruce and I had to leave Rome, taking a $10,000 loss on the sale of our house due to 23% unemployment in Floyd County. The ‘big fish’ in the area didn’t want new industry to come in and mess up their apple cart. Bruce would drive to and from Atlanta to work for years. He was out of state working at times. I taught, took care of the house, the lawn, and our children. I learned about single parenting and was glad it was only temporary.
9 -1990’s - Because people wanted to empty the Adirondacks of the small towns and make a millionaire’s playground by calling it a “Biosphere”, I was almost deprived of my birthright, a barn and 50 acres. The Sierra Club was even duped into believing the interested parties who wanted to make the land “free of man’s footprint” actually wanted to turn back time and allow trains to run to their fancy resorts. The governor’s response to those who would be removed was essentially that he wasn’t worried about losing their votes; he’d pick up a precinct in the Bronx. Mohawk Power Company let everybody know the power lines being buried would increase their energy costs. The result was the million acre biosphere vote lost by only 2%. I learned rich people can afford to hide their real reasons AND I learned every vote counts.
10 -1990’s – My mother’s retirement saved her financially. My father’s retirement from Chrysler was a pitiful $200 a month. (She told me of one widow who had gotten a pittance of $80 dollars from the same company.) One credit card company dropped my Mom after she became a widow. Mama taught me many, many things during her lifetime and I wish she was still alive. I learned to look into the future and prepare for it.
11 - 2000’s - Georgia copies everything Florida does, even if it’s the wrong thing to do. In Florida, education voucher money was unfairly doled out to people who didn’t need it, basically a “tax cut for the rich”. Schools were closed in Florida and students were bussed for three hours a day to another city rather than improve the staff in their neighborhood school. I learned that sometimes it’s not a good idea to do what others are doing.
12 - 2010’s - Seven states were sued by NEA because teachers realized NCLB goals were not achievable; not all students would read on grade level by 2014. So, Race to the Top is now being promoted. Improvements have come from both initiatives, but teachers and the public education system have been SO denigrated that public school teachers are now seen as “thieves of the taxpayer’s money” and "ruining America". Perception is what matters now, not truth. People have access to more information, but much of it is not substantiated (or even true!). As people read short snippets or hear sound bites, they look no further to see who would benefit from the statement. They look no further to find out if what they hear or read is even true! “Follow the money” has been a phrase I’ve used for decades. I’ve learned it’s extremely important to look deeper . . . much deeper.