MAY 31,2012


North Carolina is beautiful. I drove all morning along the coast. Lazy little towns and fields of some unknown purple plant everywhere I looked. This is the route off the interstate, the real local flavor our country offers when you take a smaller highway. One thing I noticed last year while traveling for Turning Around America was the regionalism that occurs in our country. For instance, while in Arkansas one of my hosts introduced me saying, ”This is Beth, she is from Boston, BUT she is really nice.” While at the same time my Boston friends called me constantly afraid for me being by myself in the south. I just want everyone to know that there is little difference between rural Massachusetts, New Hampshire and a small town in North Carolina. Some food items differ, but – north, south, east and west we are all the same. We work hard, love our families and friends, watch the same television shows and face the same dilemmas in our everyday life. No matter our political affiliation we are all concerned about the economy, war, and the fate of our nation. As I have traveled around this country for the last year and a half, I see that we are a country in crisis. For sale signs everywhere, people out of work, parks closing down and teachers protesting the decline of our public schools. I have thought a lot about these subjects as I travel. I am a problem solver; I have a difficult time with the words “no! It cannot be done.” These words are antithetical to everything that built America. We are a country that was built on neighbor helping neighbor, even if we have different beliefs and cultural backgrounds. I am most aware of the school systems, as I have traveled. I have heard the concerns of teachers all over the country. I thought it was put best when I was in Florida last year speaking at the Florida Woodturning symposium, a gentleman walked up to me after my talk about the need for everyone to get involved in whatever way they can to help kids learn hand skills. The gentleman told me he had been a teacher for 35 years. The first year he taught, the teachers had a meeting with the principle and were told that their job was to help each student reach their “personal- best” potential. 35 years later he was at a meeting where the new principle said- your job as teachers is to treat all students as if they were “one” individual, and that individual has to pass this test (which ever one was current in that state). The gentleman said he promptly put his resignation in. His observation represents what is happening in our country. We are training our kids to pass some test that will prepare them to be a middle manger in business, when business is disappearing in our country.  My and Jenn’s project has been about the reintroduction of hand skills, and helping teachers maintain programs that are about teaching hand skills. This all started for me when I realized that many of my fellow grad students had not had hand skill training do to budget cuts and reorganization in their schools.   Hand skills help a person developed problem solving skills. It seems to me that America is facing many problems and we need to stop being short sited. We cannot always go for the quick fix. We live in such an amazing time. I am sitting in a Wendy’s writing to you on a keyboard that is connected to my I-phone by blue tooth. I will post this later on and it will be sent to people all over this country. These are powerful tools, they allowed Jenn and I to reach thousands of people all over the country, with our relatively simple idea of teaching as many people as possible how to make a simple wooden object. Today a state trooper pulled me over in Burn North Carolina; I had no idea what I had done. He said I went around a car on the right, as it was turning left. My response was yes- and… This is something that is not illegal in Massachusetts. I just drove 25,000 miles without any tickets so there was a certain amount of irony. While in Maryland several people had told me not to drive along the coast because the police were aggressive. I just thought maybe they were bad drivers. After he gave me the ticket, I could only think what a waste and how short sited this kind of activity is. He stops people from out of town because they cannot come back to defend themselves in court months later. The real crime for me was the waste of manpower on such a stupid trivial little incident. Our police force just sitting at the side of the road all day waiting for some out of state person to make some stupid little mistake out in the middle of no where when we have such pressing matters to deal with all around us. While he was sitting at the side of the road waiting -there were kids in his town who could use adult guidance. While he sat at the side of the road waiting, there were elderly people who could have used help filling out forms. While he sat at the side of the road there were drug being produced and sold in his community. And it goes on and on. Because of this action I will avoid the back roads of North Carolina on the way home, and my money and the money of those folks in I met in Maryland will not be spent in that town at, restaurants, gas stations etc … The 238.00 dollars could have been used on my and Jenn’s project and now it will not. I started to notice all the police cars in that area were new, and yet the towns could have used some sprucing up. I thought the real crime was that at a time we need so much help from our local official they were just looking around for some quick revenue scheme and not at the big picture. people in North Carolina are really wonderful and friendly. This is just one poorly thought out use of our energies as a town, as a state, and as a country. We have gotten away from, for the people and by the people. When I gave the talks to audiences about woodworking programs being taken out of schools. The audience would reply, THEY are taking this away, my constant refrain was. WE are they. When did we stop being the United States of America? WE run the country and we vote for our school policies. WE pay our local government and our political leaders to do what WE want. The question is how do WE empower each other to be involved in all these systems? How do we help people to feel like WE can make things happen?


About turningaroundamerica

Collaborative Team of Jenn Moller and Beth Ireland
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