Thursday, October 18, 2007

News, hobo road trip edition.

Thomas Jefferson would disagree with Fred Ziegler's letter to the editor: the "bottom line" of education isn't to prepare students for the working world, but to prepare them for a participatory democracy. An uneducated populace isn't fit to vote or debate national issues, said Jefferson, so a public school system would give kids the basic knowledge to function as American citizens.

Training students on "thank you" ettiquette should fall to the parents, not overworked teachers. It just so happens that Ziegler's "job readiness skills" come along with a good education.

I've heard too often about schools switching to a curriculum that focuses on teaching trades and job skills, but if the best we can do is teach kids how to punch a clock, it's no wonder we need rigid, cookie-cutter standardized tests to keep kids in line.

Many kids in school think learning about Shakespeare or government or economics is boring with a capital "B." But then I think about how current generations are dropping out of activities like reading books and newspapers, voting, and falling for financial scams like sub-prime mortgages, and I wonder how all that "job training" is going to help Americans be good Americans.

I've long advocated for a new dieting craze called the Hobo Diet. So far I've developed basic meal plan guidelines: anything in a can (sardines, pork 'n' beans, Vienna sausages), anything high in salt and sodium (crackers, chips, boloney), speadable meats like braunschweiger, drinks enjoyed out of a paper bag, and lots of fried eggs - with little to no fruits or veggies (unless they're out of a can and high in corn syrup - like fruit coctail).

(Come to think of it, my Hobo Diet is a lot like what my grandpa and I ate when I visited him as a kid...)

Now someone has come up with a step-by-step process to become a REAL hobo. How exciting.

Turns out there's an entire hobo language:

"Learn the hobo code. Historically hobos relied on a shared system of symbols that let fellow travelers know more about their current environment. The symbols can vary from place to place and may no longer be used in many areas."

So pack your sardines, learn the handshake, and catch the next train to Sacramento.

Who's with me?

Why Dennis Kucinich will never become president: ""Spirit merges with matter to sanctify the universe. Matter transcends, to return to spirit. The interchangeability of matter and spirit means the starlit magic of the outermost life of our universe becomes the soul-light magic of the innermost life of our self. The energy of the stars becomes us. We become the energy of the stars. Stardust and spirit unite and we begin: one with the universe; whole and holy; from one source, endless creative energy, bursting forth, kinetic, elemental; we -- the earth, air, water and fire-source of nearly fifteen billion years of cosmic spiraling."

From his book, A Prayer for America.

This weekend will be the first time my dad and I have taken a road trip together in years. Me, him, and my iPod to break the silence.

We're heading to Pennyslvania to visit my youngest sister, who moved down there with her boyfriend while he attends a trade school. They got an apartment, and she snagged a job with Olive Garden. What's cool is my dad's helping them out along the way - care packages, money, whatever - as my sister gets her first start out in life away from home.

I've been through Pennsylvania, but never stopped for any kind of visit. From what I understand, the town is a bit east of Pittsburgh, which I've always wanted to see. So we won't be in the heart of PA, but still: a new place to say I've been.

My dad doesn't talk a lot. My grandma likes to say I'm the happy medium between the two families: sometimes quiet (dad), but never a non-stop talker (grandma).

"I don't know how he hooked up with our family," grandma said. She said a lot more before and after that, but I drift in and out.

Dad was never a helicopter parent - most of the time he was pretty absent from any of my school activities - and he told me the only way I would ever get in trouble with him is if I got caught. Well, I got caught plenty of times, but I've never caught real hell with dad. I think he knew to trust me - to trust my decisions, to trust that I could make my own way in life, and to trust me to just be around, in some fashion. He's independent, so I'm independent.

My dad just likes us kids to be there, no strings attached. I think that's a pretty good deal, and so I suggested we take this trip together. Even if it means a total lack of in-depth conversation; just being together is enough.

We leave Friday night. Back on Sunday. Wish me - and the guy that named me - lots of luck.

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