Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lighting a Fire

I passed a turtle on the road the other day and couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking trying to cross a four lane road at zero miles per hour. It seems with the armadillos there’s enough road kill out there to feed half of Detroit. When you’re my age everything tastes like chicken anyway. But that turtle trying to cross the road makes you wonder, unless you understand that he really wants to get to the other side. If you watch carefully you’ll see him duck his head about the time you reach him. Obviously some higher order thinking skills here or why duck when a two ton car about to turn him into buzzard buffet passes by. Yes, you have to wonder what gets that turtle fired up enough to try to cross the road. I would guess it’s one of those basic needs we hear about. Sort of like a politician’s need to be re-elected again and again. Some of us are turtles and take a little more time crossing the road (some become the armadillo) and others get there fairly quickly, like a squirrel for instance.

It’s the fire we’re sometimes missing, the fire that burns in the turtle’s belly and moves him across the road. When I read about some of our schools I want to ask, where’s the fire and who’s got the matches? I don’t give a rat’s rump about scores on a test. Also, I’ll let you in on a little secret, not all our kids are going to find the fire in college. Another apparently little known fact is that some aren’t even going to college. Where did we get this idea that all fires are lit in college anyway?! If I were a high school administrator I think I would find a way to ask my faculty a couple of questions at the end of each year. “How many fires did you light this year and how many times did you become a fire extinguisher?” Those are the important questions. If you want to pay on merit (a good idea if they can get the fire extinguishers out of the buildings) find out who’s lighting fires. As a parent I would be asking the administrator, “Who do you have lighting a fire under my son/daughter?” Not, “uh excuse me Dr. Doolittle, can you tell me why Tabitha can’t score high enough on the SAT to get into UGA?” The answer to that is as plain as the deer in the headlights look on Doolittle’s face. Tabitha is sitting on marble and her rear end is as cold as that armadillo that wasn’t fired up enough to cross the road. Tabitha will glow like a roman candle whenever someone lights her fire, be it teacher, parent or maybe somebody at church.

There are fire starters everywhere so why have we put ourselves in this box of can’t strike anywhere matches when it comes to our kids? It’s time we began to develop children where we find them, stopped trying to push college for every child who enters the first grade, renew a since of gratitude for those people who can fix stuff that breaks around our houses and put some money in teaching vocational skills again. Every time my toilet breaks I’m wondering what course I slept through at Georgia Southern that taught us the intricate workings of the commode. The answer is always the same…none.

We’re reading articles that tell us the sky is darn sure falling if the governor cuts the budget for higher education. Well, there’s somebody out there all fired up about fixing toilets and sinks who isn’t all that concerned about the governor’s budget. I’ll bet ol’ Sonny himself needs a toilet fixed now and then. Don’t get me wrong, studying art literature and history is time well spent but when you think about it you can read about these things. Teach your child to read and he or she will always be able to “study” art, literature or history. Take pride in that child of yours who wants to learn a trade instead of attending college. Ever ask yourself why scores are considered so important to school folks? It’s simple…they can be measured and compared. Fire, on the other hand, is something beautiful to watch but difficult to measure.