Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trampling Out the Vintage

The other night I finally finished The Grapes of Wrath. Not my favorite by John Steinbeck, but still a worthy read, and definitely an excellent portrayal of America during the Great Depression. The book is about the Joad family, who are booted off their Oklahoma farm as a result of the dust bowl. They make their way to California in search of work, finding only desparation in its place. (That really makes you wanna read it, right?)

I love how this book is written. The odd chapters (1, 3, 5, etc.) are short, 3 or 4 pages, and provide a general description of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the challenges the homeless migrant families faced as they headed west. These chapters put the story in context and usually foreshadow the even chapters. Then, the even chapters (2, 4, 6, etc.) are a telling of how one family in particular (the Joads) respond to these challenges.

The book's ending is quite abrupt and, at first glance, anti-climactic, which is something I'm learning to expect and appreciate when it comes to Steinbeck novels. I won't spoil the it for you, but what I got out of this book, especially the ending, is that human dignity is most effectively obtained and imparted while debasing oneself in the service of another.

If you're gonna read only one John Steinbeck novel in your life, read East of Eden. If you're gonna read two, try The Grapes of Wrath.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Your kids can walk to school.

Not sure know why parents don't realize this. For years I've lived across the street from a junior high school. When I'd leave for school (college school) every day, backing out of my driveway was always a chore thanks to the mobile baracade of SUVs and minivans lining the street. Going to school in Idaho has been a bit of a break because I always walk to class. But since I've been here in California I've witnessed a similar phenomenon on my way to work: a snake of cars slithering through an elementary school parking lot. Sure, it's not a big deal here because I don't have to sever the snake to leave my house; I just find it strange that so many children need a ride to school.

Let's think about this. There are, what, two to three junior highs (or middle schools, if you will) per high school? And the same number or more of elementary schools per junior high? That's anywhere from 6 to over 12 elementary schools per high school. I'll agree, not every high school is within walking distance, but when the elementary to high school ratio is so high, there will almost always be an elementary school, and very likely a junior high as well, within walking distance of any house.

It's especially ironic here in Nor Cal, where liberalism is the church of state and everyone's greatest fear is global warming. If your kid is perfectly capable of getting to school her own (she has two functional legs), why waste precious resources and pollute the air by driving her to school?

Parents might argue that's it's unsafe to have their kids walk to school. Well, if you all made your kids walk there'd be more kids on the road, making it far less likely for your kid to be abducted -- odds are it will be someone else's kid, so what are you worried about? Honestly, the world is a dangerous place, but the sooner kids learn how to live in that world, the better. The one place they won't learn that is in the backseat of a minivan.