A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
I was walking a trail this morning and an annoying fly kept buzzing around my head so I picked up a rock and the moment he landed I whacked him. I didn’t think that through. – Jim Foster.
I don’t know if this is a funny column, a serious outbreak of nostalgia or worse, the sad musings of an old geezer, but I’ll dig into it anyway.
I was invited to speak at a conference a while back. I knew what I was going to say and was busy pecking away at part of it when the awful realization struck me that I may be getting old. I planned on reading a poem I wrote ripping apart Wordsworth’s classic, The Daffodils. Mine is much better by the way.
I’m sure some of you (I was going to say all of you) will remember ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils’. In the middle of a peck it suddenly occurred to me that the younger members of the audience might not. There was a good chance they weren’t even born when I first read that poem. I think we studied The Daffodils in Grade 9 and that, I’m horrified to say, was 70 years ago. There is a slight chance too (very slight I imagine) that the English curriculum may have changed over the years. Why the Department of Education would want to do that I have no idea since it was perfectly fine for us back then and I’m sure the kids today would love to listen to a teacher drone on and on, or better yet, stare out the window as some kid stumbled over Wordsworth’s immortal poems – well maybe not.
If you older folks will think back to the halcyon years of our youth, we had to memorize all sorts of stuff, poetry mostly, and be-damned most of it is still rattling around in our heads. We don’t think about it much but it pops out every now and then when you least expect it.
We may be driving through the Muskokas or Horseshoe Valley in October with the grandchildren and find ourselves pointing to the trees and saying, “along the line of smoky hills, the crimson forest stands, and all the day the blue jay calls throughout the autumn lands.” Of course, the kids will roll their eyes, nudge each other and whisper, “Gramps (or Grams) forgot to take his (or her) medication again. It’s time for the Home.”
As much as we thought it boring at the time, those poems are one of the few things I do remember from high school – well, other than the girl who sat beside me in chemistry. She wore a pale blue sweater and when she stretched… I’m sorry.
Where was I? Oh yeah, I can’t recall the square of the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle coming into a conversation too many times over the years. And if it did there was alcohol involved. But the poem, it must be the cadence of the verse that stays with us – da dah, da dah, da dah, da dah, the crimson forest stands.
I guess we all think the things we learned in the 50s (and 60s for the youngsters) are what should be taught now and the way it was taught should remain the same. That was the way it is supposed to be. I’m afraid not, the world has changed and most of us have been left behind.
It has always been that way. No doubt Socrates thought Plato was screwing up the thought processes of his students when he opened his own school. I have never read either of them had problems with a student texting across the agora on his cell phone or doing whatever kids do today with those tablet things. But I’m sure the little Athenians were fooling around in the middle of the lessons just the same as we did 70 years ago and kids do now.
Of course, they had very few discipline problems in ancient Greece since a minor misdemeanor could get you sent bare naked to Sparta with just a slingshot and no shoes. I wouldn’t want to be a teacher today. The technology is changing so rapidly and what he or she learned in university is already out-of-date before they take off their graduation gown. Plus schools don’t fail kids anymore and years from now doting parents will wonder why little Johnny or Jane didn’t become a vice-president of a major corporation. It’s because they couldn’t write or spell. Come to think of it, neither can I.