The Effects of Hiding With Black Cats
By Jill Jenkins
Over 60 years ago at the height of the Cold War, I was born in a town nestled in the Rocky Mountains to over protective parents and nervous aunts and uncles. Attempting to protect my siblings and me from a dangerous world, they taught us many useful lessons and some not so useful lessons based on superstitious beliefs and fear. Since the fear of the Cold War was ever present, they told us to escape into the mountains and hide if the Soviet Union ever invaded. They taught us to follow the rivers downstream if we were ever lost. They taught us to snare rabbits, birds and catch a fish using our shoelaces and readily available to willows. They taught us to carve whistles or create bows and arrows from those same willows. They taught us which berries and insects were safe to eat and which water was safe to drink. They taught us how to construct a bed and a lean-to from branches and logs. They taught us to create fires and knives from bits of flint. They also taught us a ritual chant with appropriate hand gestures if a black cat ever crossed our path: “Ring around the cats ass, dot, dot, dot.”
Likewise the knowledge we obtained in schools was both useful and nonsense. We learned to read, write and decipher math, but, also, to duck and cover under our desks to protect us from nuclear proliferation. Surprisingly, our generation to the shock and dismay of our parents’ generation eventually rejected the ideas they had tried to instill in us about women’s rights, racial prejudice and economic equality. We had learned the power of nuclear warfield and the lack of power of the black cat. (That is lucky for me and my black cat, Lenny, who has lived with me for 15 years.)
The lunacy of teaching children lies and half-truths to keep them safe only leads to resentment and anger. The world is a safer place when everyone is presented with facts to make rational decisions. Still I hear my more conservative friends complain that the public schools are teaching their grandchildren about global warming, encouraging recycling and promoting the Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, all of which they believed are liberal ideas created to brainwash their children and to make the population feel good about their attempts to solve problems. To them I say, "Poppycock." Factual based education will help students develop rational thinking skills to solve problems that are yet unknown. Teaching students religious based and politically motivated hogwash will dilute their ability to think just like my dear aunt’s ritual of protecting us from evil black cats.
While I was teaching, there was a push from some parent groups to prevent teachers from assigning research papers and projects. Parents felt that all knowledge should be memorized and regurgitated on tests, but learning involves examining facts and differing arguments and drawing conclusions from them. The world needs a generation of rational problem solvers, not robots. There is no hiding in the mountains or using black cat rituals to protect the world from global warming or the annihilation of endangered plants and animals. Hiding under our desks never protected us from a nuclear holocaust and neither will it protect our children and grandchildren from lead polluted drinking water or air filled with polluted plumes pumped from oil refineries and factories. Finding solutions can only happen if the next generation is armed with the ability to make rational decisions.