WHERE ARE WE AS A NATION? I will keep my answer to myself and just note the facts as I’ve recently seen them. The reader may form their own opinion. The last two events I’ve participated in have been in such stark contrast with one another, I found it both frightening and extremely annoying. Any reader who may find my comments offensive may hit “delete” now before reading further.

I participated in a homesteading educational event at Short Creek Nature Reserve which I found enjoyable and rewarding. The participants genuinely wanted to learn basic skills such as food preservation, solar energy, alternative building materials, gardening, harvesting wild plant foods and herbs, etc. Those participating and taking the classes were there out of genuine interest in learning self-sufficiency skills. They were polite, cordial, and asked intelligent, often thought-provoking questions.

There were quite a few children at that event, but all were well behaved, polite, and freely used such phrases as, “Yes, Maam”, or “Excuse me, please”. They played quietly without screaming and yelling like banshees, and socialized with other children quite well. I did not hear one rude comment out of a single child’s mouth all weekend. I did not witness a single argument or a push or slap all weekend. The children were probably for the most part home-schooled, at least the ones I spoke with were. Young people were also interested in taking classes or demonstrating a craft. I met a family in which three sons had learned the blacksmithing trade and watched them turn out some well made products. I made a point of telling the father how impressed I was with his children. My point here, is these young people are learning to be self-sufficient, to provide for themselves and their families, and to have more self-respect and pride than to wait on their laurels for the government to give them hand-outs. In short, I was thoroughly impressed.

By stark contrast, I recently finished an event at a national historic site where the people who came through were in every way different from those at Short Creek. I saw no discipline in the majority of children who came through the stations. I saw parents who catered to their spoiled children opening closed doors and ushering their urchins into a room after I told them that room was not for public admittance. Excuse me, what do you think your little dear is going to be like as an adult if you, as a parent, defy rules – rules put into play for the safety of all present – and encourage them to ignore reason and do as they please?

As for teachers who brought students to the event – I saw here an enormous contrast in attitudes. One teacher stopped before coming into the room where I was and proceeded to tell her students to behave or she’d beat them black and blue and knock their heads off, while another (same gender, same race, same grade of students) took the opposite stance. Her students were yelling, jumping all around, grabbing everything in reach, one kid was playing an imaginary guitar complete with very loud sound effects and jumping around to the point he was knocking kids around him over. It was complete bedlam. To that teacher I said, “I’m sorry, I’ve had bronchitis, I can’t speak loudly enough to shout over all of them. If they’d care to be quiet and listen I’ll answer as many questions as they may have”. To that, she responded by telling the kids to leave the room because I was rude and I shouldn’t be allowed around children. Really? You want to go there?

Except for maybe 5% of those present, the parents had no interest whatsoever in learning anything about foods, cooking, or food preservation. When I attempted to discuss with them what I was there to demonstrate I met only with blank zombie-like stares and as soon as I paused for breath I got the same question from every group. “Where do those stairs go?” Jeez Louise – that’s all you have – nothing at all to do with my purpose for being here?

To explain – there are stairs in the room that go to the attic. There is a door in the floor that opens and closes providing access and egress to the attic space. I answered that same question at the very least 500 times a day. Neither the parents nor the students had even a basic grasp of cooking and no matter what I said to them, the only thing they wanted to know about was where those stairs go. I told a few people they were the stairway to Heaven.

If it’s not a chicken nugget or a Big Mac the majority of people have no concept of cooking or nutrition. They can’t recognize basic vegetables. Even the checker at the grocery store where I purchased some items prior to beginning the event had to ask me what all the vegetables were so she knew what to charge for them. I’m not talking about some out of the ordinary item; these were as basic as squash and cabbage – the things that appear on my table at home on a regular basis.

Over the years I’ve always had a certain number of silly questions pop up during demonstrations, but the last few years there has been an obvious inability to grasp the basic skills of life. What are these people going to do if the drive-through at the local fast food joint doesn’t have nuggets or burgers and fries to hand out , or Heaven forbid, if the grocery store doesn’t have frozen pizza and toaster waffles? Lord help us, I hope we never have to find out.