This essay is critical, and you must understand its importance. It will change your life; it has changed my life. How's that for an attention getting comment?
This is the backstory. I have written about this many times, and it explains a great deal about who I am today. For most of my early educational journey, I was a good student. I got above average grades and was given additional responsibilities by my elementary school teachers. However, my parents moved from Pennsauken, NJ to Pittsburgh, PA near the end of elementary school.
My father wanted his three sons to get a good education through their public education and go off to college. That driving force for my father was that he didn't get to go to college due to WWII. So, we moved to Mt. Lebanon, a southern suburb of Pittsburgh. Mt. Lebanon, at the time, had the 19th best school system in the entire nation. Mt. Lebanon also was an extremely rich community. It didn't take me long to learn two things about who I was. I went from an above average student grade wise and economically comfortable to feeling both dumb and poor. It was an emotional and intellectual shock to my psyche.
It took me a good part of my life to process that cognitive mistake that I had made. Once I realized that I wasn't dumb and/or poor, my life changed. Next month, I will be 74, and I am still teaching at the college level. I am driven to make sure my students do not make the same mistake regarding who they are.
Over the past half-dozen years, two young grandchildren, Jack and Owen, entered my life. In fact, when Jack was three, he saw me teaching an online art history class and wanted to know what he saw on my monitor. I told him that it was a famous painting. Satisfied, he toddled off only to return to see another painting and wanted to know what that was.
Here was grandfather dedicated to teaching that didn't realize that a three-year-old wanted to or could learn art history. Three years later, Jack can identify five or six dozen paintings and the artists who painted them. Owen, who is now four, is following his older brother's educational path.
A year later, Jack was in my backyard, which butts up to a small lake. We were sitting there throwing rocks into the lake. Then Jack asked, "Papa, what's this?" I looked and he had found a half-dozen fossilized seashells in a rock that he was about to throw into the lake. Jack and Owen have a collection now of fossils.
On Owen's last birthday, I gave him several fossils, one of which was a shiny ammonite. He wanted to help me put the fossils away in the fossil box. So, I gave him the four new fossils. Then I opened the window box, and he handed each of them to me separately, except for his shiny ammonite. I watched him feeling the smooth shell, which fascinated him.
Then without saying anything, Owen reached into the box of fossils and pulled out the small bamboo box containing one of Jack's ammonites and said, "See Papa, they are the same thing." Owen had just turned four and could see the relationship between ammonites even when they don't look the same, which impressed me. He returned to the box and found another ammonite. Again, he informed me that it is the same thing as his shiny one, even though it wasn't shiny. He returned to the collection box and got a large beige ammonite, which he let me hold that one in one hand and gave me his shiny new one to hold in my other hand while explaining that they are the same thing.
I have written a recent essay about the importance of teaching your children. I get the importance of education. It is much of what motivates me. Several weeks ago, I happened upon a speech found on TED by Annie Murphy Paul who gave a speech in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Ms. Paul's speech was about fetal origins, which is discipline that shows the correlation between what is learned by a fetus during its nine months in the mother's womb. For a person who was well-aware of DNA, and that we are not born as John Locke thought as a tabula rasa , I was amazed about the extent of the learning process of a fetus. The mother's voice is recognized while the fetus is in vitro. It learns which tastes and smells are a part of the mother's foods. It learns the language inflections of its mother's language and cries using the same inflections.
Ms. Paul also spoke about adverse effects upon a fetus during traumatic times. She mentioned the effects on pregnant women and their fetuses as the result of the Hunger Winter in Holland during WWII and attack on 9/11 here in the States. Her lecture was absolutely fascinating to anyone, especially one who was into education.
I wondered what my mother thought, ate, and worried about while she carried me during WWII. I was born just prior to my father being shipped off to the South Pacific. I can't imagine the worries and anxiety that she had during the time she carried me inside of her. Surely, she worried about my father returning safely from the war. She would have to fend for herself and care for me if he didn't.
Seventy years later, I took a trip to Myanmar (Burma). I have written about the transformative experience that month had within my psyche. I took thousands of photos of places and people in that country. As I catalogued them and posted them on my website three years ago, I noticed something strange. I was amazed at all the photos that I took of small children in Myanmar. From infants to preschoolers, I took for some unexplained reason hundreds of these pictures. I wondered why but had no substantive answer.
However, after watching Ms. Paul, it is starting to come together. In those photos, I had captured a new generation of very young children entering a world in a military dictatorship. I was worried about them as my mother worried about me even before I was born.
I have written about Ti Ti, my granddaughter in Myanmar. What accounts for that protective drive within me? The pieces of my puzzle of life are coming together.
This is the video of Annie Murphy Paul's speech.
This is a link to an article that I wrote about an infant's brain.
Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.
Visit the On Seeing the Light page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Connecting the Dots page to read more about this topic.
Visit the "The Hand May Be a Little Child's" page to read more about this topic.
Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.