Wednesday, January 24, 2024

A Southern Awakening

Several years ago, my husband and I, Coloradans for more than thirty years, took a trip to the South primarily to visit friends who lived in Greensboro, North Carolina. After we visited and had a good time playing golf together, we drove a little bit further south to Charleston, South Carolina. 

On our first stop in Greensboro, our friends took us on a tour of their city which included visiting a forest where soldiers fought during the Revolutionary War and then to the Woolworth store in the main part of town where African Americans broke the Jim Crow laws and sat at the lunch counter and demanded to be served. 

On our first stop in South Carolina, we visited Fort Sumter where the Civil War began. There we saw the armor and artillery the Confederates used for the first shots of the conflict.

It was in Charleston that we took our most memorable tour, so full of history about our country. Our tour guide was a white man who was sensitive to the conflicts that have occurred since America began to exist. What I remember most was our visit to the cemetery where John C. Calhoun is buried and the discovery of how such a hateful man was able to be a powerful governing factor that divided our nation and still influences the beliefs of many today.

Our guide ended the tour by taking us to the market where slaves were auctioned off and sold. Very powerful.

The tour guide finessed commenting on the state of our country and its attitude toward the history of slavery by pointing out the gains we have made and commenting that we are still a work in progress.

Of course, we saw many remnants in Charleston of the wealthy's elegant lifestyle that existed at the time at the expense of the slaves who attended them.

I think it's time to acknowledge our history and move forward, to accept what happened in the past and pick out what were the good things. We all should know we can do better and we should all work at making this a reality.

We have the possibility of electing an American woman from the South who is proud of her heritage but cognizant of the many horrific foibles that took place. 

Let's move on.


Thursday, January 18, 2024

My Current Wrap on the Candidates

 In my very Libra style, here is my brief (but spectacular) assessment of the current major candidates running in the 2024 campaign.

Note: The names are listed in alphabetical order.

JOE BIDEN - Conciliator
Knowledgeable and Experienced in working with Congress and foreign leaders
Endorsements: Democratic Party

RON DESANTIS - Firefighter
Advocates for the status quo and governs accordingly.
Endorsements: Florida

NIKKI HALEY - Fair and Balanced 
Continually trying to achieve the American Dream in government, business and society
Endorsements: Chris Sununu, Charles Koch

DONALD TRUMP - The Not So Nice Boss
Capable of achieving wealth at any cost. Wants to run the government the same way.
Endorsements: The Republican Party, Some unions, the Evangelical Church

It's our choice.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

PUNCHING BACK

I'm watching two wars take place right now and feeling helpless as they unfold. In one situation, a country has been invaded and the citizens are defending their rights to remain a country. In the other the citizens of a country ruled by another have risen up using any means to become independent and the ruling country is retaliating.

I'm reminded of an incident that took place when my children were very young. My younger son was part of a play group that we mothers had organized. Every week one of the mothers would host the play group and think of activities to do. The other grateful mothers had a few hours to themselves. The group was comprised of four boys all four years old.

One of the members of the group...let's call him Donny....was the son of a very educated woman. I think her husband was a businessman. She was an architect who had attended an Eastern Ivy school and had had her son when she was a bit older. (In my time that was in her thirties).

Of course, these little guys were learning how to socialize and three of them including my son were sweet and kind and gentle. They were content to build with blocks, pretend they were superheroes, and sometimes even set up a grocery store. Donny, having been hovered over by his helicopter mom, had no rules. 

One time she dropped her little Donny off at my house for a session where I was in charge. Accompanying Donny was a bag full of chains and other hardware. "Donny likes to build," proclaimed his helicopter mother. 

On this occasion, Donny took out some of his chains to hit my darling son who, in response, burst out crying. 

I took him aside and whispered in his ear, "The next time he comes after you, punch him back."

My son did exactly that and Donny screamed and yelled and went on and on for a good period of time.

But Donny never went after my son again. 

The moral of the story is that if someone hits you and you can't with words convince them to not do so, only a punch will convey the message. Of course, you have to assess whether you are strong enough to defeat him/her/them. Often, in my mind, where there's a will, there's a way.

PS: I have to say that after this incident we other mothers asked the helicopter mom to leave Donny's chains at their home when she brought her son to play group.

 

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

MINOR QUANDRIES

In the course of owning our home in the mountains we've come across all kinds of obstacles, none of them that serious but, in the course of a day, annoying. 

During covid, we had a "covid bird" who visited us regularly. He looked at his image in our front windows and pressed his beak against all of them to try to get in. It was a regular rat a tat tat. We tried everything......covering up the windows with blankets, placing a fake owl statue on the window ledge. We called the wildlife people and they suggested more hints. Finally after a few harassing months, Mr. Covid Bird decided to disappear.

Then there was the moth problem. That came about a year ago now when it seems all my cashmere sweaters suddenly had holes in them. I quickly ordered mothproof hanging bags and sweater bags from Amazon and sweater replacements. With the help of our exterminator who visits us monthly, we hung some lights to attract the little critters. We still see them but not as frequently anymore.

And alas, there's the wine cellar saga brought on by our older son's constant complaint that he kept hearing a ringing noise every time he walked into the kitchen. We discovered it was the wine cellar and, after several attempts to fix it, had to order a new one. My son has now had to find something else to complain about.

We have said to ourselves that we own a thirty year old house and we know there will be problems. That's just part of the deal.

Aside from the latest that our hot tub turned green while we were hosting a weekend for our grandson and his friends,  our latest quandary was what to do about hardened brown sugar that my husband purchased at the grocery store.  This is definitely a problem since very frequently I make my traditional recipe of panocha squares. (blonde brownies with chocolate chips). 

I went to my friend, the internet, and he/she prescribed three solutions: (1) Put apples on top of the brown sugar in a bag. We didn't have any apples. (2) If you have time, place it in the oven at a 300 degree temperature and then let it cool. I'm always impatient. (3) THE ONE. Open the wrapping and place a piece of bread on top of it. Then place in a Ziploc bag. 

Voila! We now have softened brown sugar.

Thank you, Google. We'll take a breath and wait for the next surprise.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

I'M JJJEWISH

In the old days I used to try to hide my Jewishness as much as possible. I remember in particular teaching at a rural Illinois high school on the Jewish High Holidays a) because I didn't want anyone to know I was Jewish and b) because I thought nobody else in the school celebrated the holidays.

I actually didn't even realize I was Jewish until I was about seven years old and my mom who had originally allowed me to go to summer Bible school with a neighbor decided that she was finally going to send me to Jewish Sunday School.

Most of my life I have intersected almost more often with gentiles rather than Jews but not always was it comfortable for me. I remember an acquaintance at a dinner party once asking me why Jews were such whiners. 

In our suburban high school, there was an uneven split between the gentiles and the influx of Jews moving  into our suburb. We named the majority (the gentiles) "The Clan." They were most often the prom king and queen, the cheerleaders, and the students whose photos appeared on the main yearbook pages. I always wanted to be a part of the clan, but alas I wasn't blonde and thin and I didn't like beer parties.

When I went to college, I thought it would be great to join a gentile sorority that I liked, but the president called the Jewish sorority and recommended that I pledge them. It was an unwritten rule that the sororities were to keep separate identities.

Later I attended graduate school at Northwestern University that had only recently lifted its Jewish quota restrictions.  I was probably the only Jewish student in my class. I recall particularly that many of my fellow students were children of government ambassadors or corporate executives, not exactly my background.

I  grappled with my Jewish identity especially after I moved to a suburb with a substantial population of mostly second and third generation Jews who had become very successful in America.

I started to study my history. 

On another occasion I was devastated when another friend of ours, a diehard WASP, told me one day when I listened to a presentation by a Jew and a Palestinian that I should just face the fact that Jews would always be hated by the Palestinians.

In short, I now know the good things and the bad things about my religion, my ethnicity, my tribe, and I'm finally proud to be a member and I no longer hide from this. True, there is a huge diversity among us, but we are held together by several of the precepts of our teachings that I revere: most importantly that we favor humanity over hatred and violence. I'm extremely proud too of the fact that we Jews have a reputation for making the most of a situation and of moving forward with positive new ideas in an effort to make the world a better place. I especially like it when it's done with humor.

Terrorists like Hamas plan their violent strategies to kill their enemy just for the sake of obliterating them. They can't think of anything better to do than to drum up horrific murders and annihilations. 

I'm not sure how we all got bundled together as Jews. Certainly the Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe are not at all like the modern Jew my Reform Jewish German mother raised me to be. Regardless I have learned to accept that there is more that holds us together than divides us and that we must continue to bond together to tell the world that we are good people and hold a distinct place among our universe. 

I will do my darnedest to accept the differences in the many diverse sects of the world that I live among and I want others to do the same. I know it's not possible, but I wish I could figure out how to make those who don't want to tolerate any differences in beliefs other than their own and spend their lives on a mission to destroy us would disappear.

That's probably not going to happen because we live in an imperfect world, but that doesn't mean I can't keep trying.




Tuesday, September 5, 2023

OPPENHEIMER

Ok. I studied pop culture in graduate school and I continue to look at life through that lens whenever any form of entertainment comes up on the radar. So, of course, when I went to see Oppenheimer, that's how I viewed the movie.  

First, I have to say that I think Christopher Nolan was brilliant to bring this story to the public right now. If you're a history buff, you'll learn a lot; if you're interested in science, you'll learn some bits and pieces, if you like politics, you'll get a huge dose of that, and, of course, there better be some sex and romance or the story is not complete.

In the July 31st issue of the New Yorker Magazine, the critic Anthony Lane looked at the movie way differently than I did. I know he's more scholarly but I'll give you my thoughts about his analysis anyway. He could not figure out why so much of the political controversy of the times was included whereas to me that part emphasized what Christopher Nolan was trying to say in the movie: that scientists, humanists, and politicians all look at life differently and, if we let the politicians be the winners, we're in deep trouble. 

I think what makes Oppenheimer such an interesting character is that he's a scientist but he's also a human being with a sense of right and wrong and then he gets caught up in the political web that doesn't honor his humanity, his flaws. Instead there is a self-righteousness on the part of those who are accusing him of not being loyal to his country because they just want a target. 

There are so many contemporary pieces to this movie that make it so outstanding. All the explosions remind me of when I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy with my grandchildren. Audiences always love this excitement and Nolan incorporates this appeal into his film. Some people I've talked to who saw the film complain about the flipping back and forth between time periods. My own view is that people's attention spans are similar to the flipping back and forth that takes place in the movie.

Just a few more observations. I loved Matt Damon's portrayal of the General in charge of Oppenheimer. I found it fascinating when he was asked in the 1954 private panel investigation whether or not he would give Oppenheimer security clearance at the current time Groves was being questioned and he, after a meaningful pause, said no. To me it showed how times had changed and so had the circumstances. When Groves hired him for the Manhattan Project, he wanted someone who could do the job. The panel and the politicians were currently in a communist scare moment that did not exist when General Groves originally hired Oppenheimer. My immigrant grandparents were communists when they first came to America, but when the stigma of what it meant to be placed in the same category of communists as the Russians occurred, they bowed out. 

One more thing: I found it was fun to learn about  a little known junior senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy being one of the three senators who denied Strauss to be voted in as Secretary of Commerce during the Eisenhower administration. Was he clairvoyant? And, if one didn't want Strauss to be approved of, do we hope for more Senators in the future who might also be clairvoyant? 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

ELITISM

Many times in my life I have been accused of wearing a halo over my head and for that reason people have been annoyed at my self-righteousness. In fact, when I was in a college sorority and on pledge night, when each of the pledges was supposed to have one of their foibles pointed out, mine was that was that my halo was tilting. At the time I was deeply infatuated with a guy and finally not necessarily paying attention to the rules.

I point this out now because once more, after hearing David Brooks talking and writing about elitism this past week, I'm again audaciously trying to give David Brooks, the brilliant and successful journalist, a one upsmanship and offer my solutions to America's problems.

As I understand it, David feels that the cultural problems we are having today are entirely due to the elite echelon which he believes has caused resentment among those not considered elite. In other words, those with more means and with more education are looking down on those with  less of both of them. How could that be if the Kochs, the Hunts, and their ilk have every means in the world and are just as influential in professing their views as the Kennedys and the Rockefellers?

So here's my take on the problem. It has to do with how we raise our  children and how we were raised. 

If one was to look at my husband and me, I think some would want to tab us elitists. Our children went to private colleges and both have advanced degrees. We live in a beautiful upscale community and are lucky enough to have the ability to travel and to spend money on our hobbies and interests.

But here's the deal. My husband grew up in a rental apartment with one bathroom for his family of five, worked his way through college and graduate school and, along with his siblings, supported his parents for the last twenty-three years of their collective lives. I worked from the time I was ten, supported my husband through law school on a yearly salary of $5,200, and supported myself through graduate school at a private university by teaching part-time.

When our children were growing up, we lived in a modest suburban community, somewhat diverse, where American values were the barometer for all of the academic and social activities that were offered. Through a combination of social relationships and strong guidance on the part of a well-qualified faculty, I am so thrilled that the experiences from that time happily still live with all of our family to this day.

So who are we to point the finger at for our problems today? Some of it is parenting. When I read of all the problems teenagers are having at these fancy Eastern camps, I'm appalled. I'm a tough love mother who, when I was seven years old and went to overnight camp for the first time, just had to deal with it.

Some of it, it's true, is the government and the non-profits who do not regulate expenditures in a way that will change things around and just instead think money will resolve the problem.

But, and I guess I agree with David on this point, we have splintered into segments of the population with no common idea of what we should be as Americans. Those who support Trump, in my estimation, believe he'll take care of all  their problems and they won't have to deal with  them. And they also believe that aspiring for more knowledge and information by attending institutions of higher learning or even at the start public schools with a common mission of educating future American citizens are institutions that are unnecessary. In a sense, these "non elite" are no different from the "elite" in the sense that they are solely interested in enjoying the moment. Regardless of category, all are aspiring hedonists.

Now that I am about to become an octogenarian, I frequently look back to the struggles and hard work that eventually produced results. I'm not homeless and I'm not a billionaire and I don't feel victimized or defeated. I know I have done my best and I'm grateful for what I have.

I wish everyone would just get over their past, accept their foibles, use their initiatives to overcome their inadequacies, and develop some pride in the hard work it takes personally and collectively to live in America. 


Mimi Pockross is an award-winning author who writes about family, the arts, and education. She is in the process of completing her fourth book, a novel about growing up in America.



Thursday, July 20, 2023

Mary Chase Film Wins a Heartland Emmy!


What an honor to have the Heartland Emmy Awards nominate the film "Mary Chase: From Housewife to Pulitzer" a series called Colorado Great Women and produced by Betty Heid and the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.

And what a thrill to have the film be announced the recipient of the award on July 15th. 

 


Never is my wildest dreams did I think when I suggested to the Hall that we do a film on Mary Chase did I envision that it would become a reality. Mary Chase is someone to be admired and remembered and at last we have a beginning to that effort.

Here's the link to the film:  https://vimeo.com/677925007

And the link to my book that tells about the lady who invented the six foot tall invisible rabbit, Harvey.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Pulling-Harvey-Out-Her-Hat/dp/1538131684/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1MR1B6FXUMJ3Y&dchild=1&keywords=pulling+harvey+out+of+her+hat&qid=1594222892&s=books&sprefix=pulling+harv,aps,169&sr=1-1

 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

A Civilized Panel Discussion

I live in the amazing community of Vail where the Vail Symposium that deals with the issues of the day has been in existence for more than fifty years.

Lately we have been blessed to have several visits to the Symposium by the Jeffersonian historian and humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson who specializes in moderating panels on hot button issues.

Last night I attended one on gun control that surpassed any of the past discussions in its ability to make the entire audience learn in a civilized manner how to address the issue. Mr. Jenkinson skillfully, methodically and with humor helped us all delve deeply into the issue. 

In between a series of videos and slides, Mr. Jenkinson first gave the audience some context for the discussion and then introduced two panelists, Joshua Horwitz, a professor of gun violence and advocacy at Johns Hopkins University and David Yamane, a professor of sociology at Wake Forest University to address the issues of this complex problem. Professor Horwitz looked at the subject from a public health standpoint, whereas Professor Yamane tended to look at the American culture psyche to address the issues.  

When Professor Horwitz was asked why, if more than 80 percent of the public wants some legislation, it never gets done, he reinforced the idea that legislation has a lot of complex problems and that, despite the public's desires, within our system, the minority can still rule. 

At the end, both professors were asked to list their number one priorities for making progress. Professor Horwitz advocated for a national law that required gun owners to have a license. Professor Yamane emphasized community education. 

Even though I think we need both, I think we should start with a requirement that every gun owner have a license before he can purchase a gun. As Professor Horwitz maintained, it's a public health issue that affects us all and though there will be gun owners who still commit mass murders, it's a start that evidence has shown can curb the problem. There will always be people who break the law, but this effort would be a great start.

In most controversial cases, I advocate compromise, but this time I'm going all out for licensing. Professor Horwitz had statistics to show that licensing works, and I don't really think those in favor of the second amendment could object to this. 

Write your congressmen if you agree. We all need to become involved!


Mimi Pockross is an award-winning author who specializes in the topics of the arts, education, and family.

Friday, May 5, 2023

A COMMUNITY OF WRITERS

We were all different at a writers' conference I recently attended: old young, male, female, trans, black, white, Asian, Eastern, Western, Army, Navy, engineers, doctors, nurses, homemakers. But we were all the same too. We love writing and just want to reach out to the audiences we think we can address. I've never been anywhere where I could automatically relate to the other person and have so much to talk about.

What do you write? Oh fantasy, romance, mysteries, historical fiction.

What do you like to talk about? Bronco riders, weddings, Willa Cather, medieval times.

Where have you published? Simon and Schuster (envy), by myself, Poetry Magazine, nowhere (just learning).

How did you find an agent? Our children went to school together; Still looking; I had one, but it didn't work out and now I'm looking for a new one.

Have you been to this conference before? I've been coming for eleven years; this is my first conference.

How many copies of your books have you sold? Over 100,000. I'm a New York Times best-seller (envy).  

How did you do it? I'm on Book Bub; I expanded my network; I have friends in high places.

What an absolute delight to be among a community that is such a comfort to me and to realize that regardless of where we are on the spectrum, we can all learn from one another. It made me think out of my "bubble," and I think I'm a better person for having had this chance. 


Mimi Pockross is the author of Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase. Look for her next book, An American Family, date of publication yet to be announced.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

THE SUITCASE

 Somehow I felt there was a sign that this trip to New York City was going to have its bumps.

Aside from what it took to coordinate for all the different days in a four day period, four pairs of shoes, three purses, three outfits, makeup and a substitute for dry eyes, the wedding gift, my Nook and my phone,  missing in action was dental floss, cue tips, and my fancy lipstick.

Sign one happened before we even boarded the plane: a delay of one plus hours because the captain of the flight was also missing in action.

Sign two: Baggage Claim at LaGuardia. Missing in action: only my suitcase. My husband's came down in the first batch. My suitcase was in the last batch. Whew!

Sign three: Which purse and shoes to wear to the rehearsal dinner? Decision: the practical traveler shoes I recently ordered on line and the middle dressy purse after transferring the contents from my tote. A miracle we got to the restaurant. Cab drivers like to know the cross streets and we hadn't a clue.

Sign four: The big wedding day. Eyeliner runs and I have to redo it. Which shoes and purse? I go with the comfortable low heeled sandals I buy earlier in the day instead of the good looking dressy peeky toe shoes that would have been more attractive. I change my tote again, this time to the dressy purse I brought that I wore when my son got married twenty years ago. Good thing I went for comfort. I had to climb a cascade  of stairs at the church on the Upper East Side, board a school bus that took us to the reception in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn or forty minutes and, of course, dance the horah at the reception.

Sign five: Something to wear that will last through the whole day that includes a breakfast with a relative, a two mile walk to the theatre district to sign some books, a 3:00 theater matinee followed by a cab ride to the Upper East Side to dine with friends. Those traveler shoes made it again and I was very happy to return to my tote bag.

Sign six: When we pack up to return to Denver, the rubber wheel cover on my suitcase falls off as we are departing. It's only recently been repaired. In the lobby, the other rubber wheel cover falls off. I'm praying the suitcase will roll enough to check-in at LaGuardia.

Sign seven: For four hours, we wait at the United gate 46 while the company tries to find the captain, who is delayed in getting to the airport because of the fog. When we finally board, we are sixth in line for takeoff, another half hour before we get in the air. 

Of course, we live in the mountains, and have to shuttle to retrieve our car to drive home. The last leg is another three hours.

Total Travel: 12 hours. Plan is to buy a new suitcase and hopefully a more efficient travel plan for next time.


Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Cherry Picking

In 1970 I wrote a paper called "The Tailor and the Truth: Why It's Difficult to Tell the Truth on Television" for a mass media class I was taking towards earning a master’s degree in communications. I could not help but think of this paper when the Republican House majority recently received access to the account that had originally been viewed only by the House committee investigating the protest that took place in 2021 and 2022. When the Republican Party gained leadership of the House of Representatives in 2022, they were able to acquire the unfiltered video coverage they had until then been denied. They then gave the tapes to Fox News Network’s host Tucker Carlson and he broadcasted a very different story to the public, a more calm recollection of the event, than the coverage viewers saw in real time on the day the event took place or the choice of clips selected by the 2021 House committee under Democratic leadership that revealed a more violent and calculated assault on the Capitol.

 

I decided to go back and look at my paper in an effort to help me figure out the current controversy. I found a reference that I had made to a book written by two sociologists about the selective coverage of a Chicago parade honoring Douglas MacArthur that had taken place after General MacArthur had been fired by President Harry Truman when he refused to take his superior’s orders during the Korean War of 1951.

 

The authors pointed out that by selecting images of the parade intended to welcome home the fallen hero General Douglas MacArthur, the public was given a sense that the parade for him was much more passionate than it really was. The clips shown to the television public focused on the masses of humanity crowded on State Street to watch the General ride by in an open vehicle, interviews with euphoric onlookers, and photos of mounds of ticker tape falling from the windows of the surrounding skyscrapers. It did not show groups of people looking on briefly before they sought out a bar or restaurant to further entertain themselves. It did not show the empty seats at Soldiers’ Field where the General gave a speech about his accomplishments and how he should not have been fired by President Truman for his views on how to win the Korean War. And it did not show interviews with others who thought President Truman had done the right thing. 

 

In the same paper, I cited another incident from that period of time in which I was writing: that of the protests against the View Nam War that took place during the 1968 Democratic Convention during which the media’s coverage favored the police’s attempt to maintain order and revealed none of the police’s violent overreactions.

 

It's been two years since the January 6th incident took place and, according to the Federal Communications Commissions, Mr. Carlson has every right to interpret the series of incidents the way he chooses. He’s entitled to report on what he thinks occurred. 

 

So much needs to be done to make our world today more “fair and balanced” without depriving us of our right to speak out. A few suggestions might be returning to a stricter code for broadcasting such as Newton Minow’s Fairness Doctrine that existed in the times when I was studying the mass media and which also included a recommendation for accountability when rules were broken. Another might be a requirement in all schools that students take a course on mass and social media to learn the fallacies that can contribute to a misinterpretation of the truth. And finally, it all goes back to the values instilled in us when we are growing up: kindness, curiosity, respect, open-mindedness, determination, humility, humor and all those other traits that make us good Americans.

 

 

Mimi Pockross is a freelance writer and the author of three books. She is currently working on a fourth book, a novel about the American family.



Wednesday, March 1, 2023

What Would Horace Say?

It was at Horace Mann Elementary School that I began my lifelong learning career. Who was Horace Mann, I thought, and why are more than fifty schools and many awards and statues throughout the country named for him? 

When I looked him up, I learned that over two hundred and fifty years ago, Horace Mann was the founder of the public education system that still guides our country today. Because of his laser focus on education he was able to implement policies in his home state of Massachusetts that eventually spread throughout the United States. 

A capable orator and administrator, he believed first and foremost that an educated citizenry was the only way that a democratic republic would survive. Above all he was a moral man and he wished for his fellow citizens to be so as well. He did not believe all children learned the same way and he felt learning should never be a contest that created jealousy and envy.

With that in mind, he created an educational system that worked for both the rural and urban population. Then he passionately asserted his beliefs on how to accomplish his goals. 

One of the many tenets that he avowed was a belief in secular education rather than in advocating for any of the religious denominations that existed at the time. All the denominations at the time were Christian and extensions of the Calvinist doctrine that had initially been established when the Pilgrims arrived in America. He did believe that all sects should read the Bible, the first book he ever read, but that interpretation and discussion should govern the teaching tools, and he encouraged the populace to, like  himself, read as many books as possible that he considered to be "of value."

He opposed any form of corporal punishment in favor of creating a free and comfortable atmosphere that would encourage learning. After a while, he did admit that sometimes a form of punishment, never physical, might have to be asserted.

Rather than learning to read what he called "mechanically," or by forcing memorization, he introduced ways in which students could put into context what they were learning, a sort of what we in the contemporary world might refer to as the phonics and word recognition methods. He believed in teaching by "induction" rather than by rote.

A lover of nature, he felt that students could learn as much from studying the environment outside of the classroom as well as the subjects taught at a school desk. And he felt strongly that students should be well aware of their own physical traits and systems.

And finally he believed that every child in order to learn must be well fed, well parented and that the school needed to create a warm, comfortable and friendly atmosphere in which to learn. He particularly blamed parents if they did not contribute to his beliefs and remained unlearned themselves or disinterested.

So, what would our politicians and governmental leaders think of Horace Mann and the advocacy he promoted that in various ways remains in place today? Has America done a good job of creating good citizens in the way that Horace Mann imagined they should be created? Maybe we might ask if all the brouhaha over the role of schools in public education could be overcome if an adherence were made to the simple principles that governed Horace Mann's rise to recognition of the importance of public education. And just maybe, by looking back at the modesty of his goals, we might become better American citizens today.


Mimi Pockross is the award-winning author of three books and a soon to be published fourth book, her first novel. You can find her on www.mimipockross.com