Posts Tagged ‘school’

Telling the Truth

October 12, 2010

When I was twenty two years old, I decided to read an entire set of encyclopedias. I was that guy.

I wish I could say I finished, but the truth is, I had randomly hand picked about half of them to keep in my car (yeah, I was that guy, too.) So with half in my small New York apartment, and the other half in the back of my silver Ford Escort station wagon, I just never got a good reading system going to finish the collection.

One night however, back then with a bottle of Merlot and hand-rolled cigarettes, while curled up with a hard-cover copy of A-B, I came across the name, Bobadilla, and the very interesting story accompanying it.

It was one of the first times I realized that I had been lied to in grade school. You know, deliberately speaking falsely is one thing, but in some cases, I believe intentional omission of facts is akin to lying.

And so we have Bobadilla.

The Cliff Notes version is Francisco de Bobadilla was hired by Spanish King Ferdinan and Queen Isabella to take over for good ole’ Chris Columbus across the way here in the New Land. In 1500, once Bobadilla got there (or here, rather) he confirmed reports that Columbus had been a cruel and dishonorable leader in the Americas, and was thus sent back to Spain in shackles and chains.

And while I don’t imagine anyone will rush to their dusty book shelves to read the rest of the story, they might read more online about how Christopher Columbus was arrested.

It’s insightful, especially for the generations who learned in school the story of Christopher Columbus the hero, who set out bravely in search of the New World, with his three mighty ships, The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Ma- OK, you know the plot, at least as we were told it in school.

Why do we uphold the tradition of telling our kids the sanitized versions of such historic tales, and then fail to follow up with the truth, the rest of the story, when they are older? Like the Native Americans and White Man sitting down to break bread, and be at peace, and live in harmony and be BFF’s. Oh, is that how it happened? I’m not so sure that’s the whole story.

I suppose it’s gotten better to some degree. My father’s generation was taught in school that the Red Man was nothing but a savage, beast-like man who scalped the innocent. Since then, history texts have undergone major restorations, to reflect the Native American’s naturally spiritual and peaceful ways, and the greed and plunder of their paler “visitors.”

Or on Valentine’s Day, which we learn is about love and cutting pink doilies and making cards when we are little – but then we are never set down in class at an older age and told about St. Valentine, one of many martyrs killed, for right or wrong, for what he believed in. That’s an important story, and a great lesson wasted. It’s a missed opportunity for a sixteen-year old student and a crucial question not asked: What would you defend until the end?

I just think telling our kids partial truths breeds confusion.

I’m not sure if it’s gotten better since I was in school, so I asked my six year son tonight what he learned about Christopher Columbus this year, and he said, “well, he only wanted gold and spices to get rich and someone else actually discovered America anyway.”

It’s a step in the right direction, I guess.

But it’s still a half truth, which is a gross inadequacy of our American education system.

I don’t propose to have a answer. But I have a question. How can we expect our kids to grow into responsible adults who speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, when we ourselves condone, and in some case even encourage, the glossing over of crucial points of life?

It’s a gap I hope all of us parents can shorten, together as we go.

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When you give, you get

March 7, 2010

I always look for ways to learn more, as both a parent and professional.

So when our local parent-teacher association asked for volunteers to help coordinate annual picture day at school last week, as a dad and photographer, I couldn’t resist.

Now for me, when it comes to volunteering, I have witnessed, first hand, the power of instant Karma. It might be the generalist in me, the lover of all things, but I always get a great deal of insight and enjoyment from each experience I contribute to. There’s always something great I get in return, when I give a part of myself to any cause.

Picture day was no exception to the cosmic law of give and take.

And it took alot.

As anyone can imagine, photographing hundreds of kids, from kindergarten to 6th grade – in one day – is a major undertaking. I was one of nearly a dozen volunteers to assist the faculty and a corps of about 12 photographers at four portrait stations in the gymnasium.

The biggest insight, professionally, was how much organization and process is going on, behind the flowery scenes and flash bulb pops.

We’re talking about many, many kids here, all at once and one right after the other. They each have their little envelope of money, with their package selected, and a corresponding card with a bar code.

They start up on stage, in the back of the gym ,where they get their class group photo taken, and then the kids are paraded out onto the floor to get their individual portraits.

This is mass production photography.

It’s up to the photographer to keep track of who’s who in the picture and make sure the envelope matches the person in the photo, so that each family gets the right prints back from the lab, with the right amount of photos enclosed.

These picture-day people have been doing this for a long time – you know, you remember getting it done too – and they have it pretty well figured out by now.

But as someone who is always studying others in my own industry, my head was spinning seeing hundreds of envelopes and little cards and bar codes flying around.

I realized pretty quick why annual, package-style, school photos are often so void of creativity. As Philip, one of the photographers there said, “It’s more important for us to be standardized than fancy.”

(read: The same “granny’s porch” backdrop for everyone, and flat, uninteresting lighting.)

But he’s right. To do that many photos in such a short period of time – and to keep it all creative – would be a tall order.

And he said, even if it was possible to be fancy, the extra time and effort for creativity on such a scale would drive prices way out of most families price range.

It was a super valuable lesson for me.

For a while, I toyed with the idea that I might expand my business model to include annual school photos.

Suffice it to say I no longer toy with that notion.

I’ll stick with smaller groups in better settings, like families in their homes or kids at the park, which on that scale, allows both creativity and affordability.

The hours flew by on the big round clock, hanging on the gym wall. And once the last class was process for pictures, I realized how much I really like kids.

Some folks don’t. I get that.

Others like their own kids, and that’s good they should, but they don’t care for other people’s kids so much.

But I just like ’em.

I am inspired by their curiosity and their willingness to learn. I enjoy their enthusiasm. And I know quite well that kids fib, lie and make up tall tales by the dozens – still – they have a certain honesty about them that most adults have lost or misplaced.

It’s a simplicity. It’s the ability to participate with and see things for what they are, without making strong or analytic assertions about them.

Kids have the ability to be in the present, not planning the future or replaying the past. They don’t worry. They smile for real, from ear to ear.

Present in the moment, they make enjoyment seem effortless.

It’s a goodness and a realness that as we grow into adults – for some reason – we lose.

I lose mine more often than not, but I always get it back in the company of kids.