A Math Lesson: Kids + Travel = Education

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"The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad . . . [I] extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and call him brother."

-- Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

When I was in the fourth grade, a classmate of mine was pulled out of school for a year.  She shrunk back as we kids prodded her, wanting to know what was going on.  Most kids who get yanked from school had it coming and were being sent off to a correctional program or boarding school.

A behavior problem? Not Melanie (if I remember her name correctly). This sweet-as-peaches girl had a different story.  Her parents were taking the entire family on a sailing trip around the world.  At the time, I probably didn't know what to think about that beyond, "That sounds like it sucks." (Boys will be boys, sorry).  But now I think she was fortunate.  Fortunate to have parents who knew the value in seeing the world; by "seeing the world" I don't mean being a tourist in fancy cities as much as I mean that deliberate living of taking a boat around the globe and mixing with the cultures of all latitudes. When I was a kid, my family had an iconic station wagon that we pounded full of miles every summer to see the country.  Passing through Mississippi, my dad detoured us through several dying towns and quipped, "This is the kind of place you live if you don't go to college."  Point taken, Dad.

I just read Sobering Facts by Douglas Hackney in which he cites a list of statistics.  Of Americans age 18- 24, for instance, "74% believe English is the primary language spoken by the most people in the world."  (In fact, English isn't even in second place).

According to Hackney's article, more than 50% of Americans have not read fiction or poetry in the last year.  That's not isolated to Americans, although I still feel that's a sad statistic.  During a backpacking trip in Mexico, I tried to buy a journal - a blank book in which to write - in a half dozen cities.  La Paz, Mazatlan, Zihuatenejo, and others. Even in the stores where I asked, the responses was invariably puzzling: why would you want to write?

Sobering facts.

Simple fact: This whole "adventure parenting" thing is just a means to teaching our daughter about the world - mostly about our local region, but what the hell?  It's fun, it's mildly dirt-bag-ish, it works. We can bring up Chaco Canyon at a dinner party and our peers will go stale and glaze-eyed before asking, "Where's that? Mexico or something?"

As I write this, I'm listening to John Mellencamp.  Is this serendipity? From "Peaceful World": "If you're not part of the future then get out of the way"  And then, just a measure or two later: "Come on baby take a ride with me."



+5 / 0
# Justin 2009-11-21 08:36
You guys are doing a great thing. Keep it up!!!
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Mark Stephens
0 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2009-11-22 21:03
Thanks for the note, Justin. I appreciate it.
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Sacramento taxi
0 / 0
# Sacramento taxi 2012-04-23 14:32
This is the kind of place you live if you don't go to college. :lol:
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