Monday, February 26, 2007

An Ode to My Parents

Stephen Downes, in his response to Steve Hargadon's post on Academic Rigor, enumerates the ways his parents celebrated "academic virtues."

Like Stephen, I was very lucky to have parents with open and curious minds. Yeah, they read newspapers and books and all that. Most importantly, they were about experiences.

- Dad made it a point to take us to festivals. Particularly the Carribean festivals in DC. We may not have appreciated it at the time, but the exposure to the colorful costumes, calypso, and different foods made me more willing to seek small community festivals in the towns I've lived in. I learn more about food and culture at these festivals than I ever would in a book.

- Mom loved to take us to the historic homes in the area. Interestingly, she was about the homes off the beaten path. Gunston Hall, Oak Hill, Woodlawn, Claude Moore Colonial Farm, and the like.... Sully Plantation was her favorite. They would hold regular "Colonial Days" where kids could learn about life in colonial times.

- The folks dragged my brother and I to the Smithsonian on a regular basis. We are so lucky to have free, world-class museums in DC. I am still a huge fan of the Natural History Museum's bug room.

- Mom is an adventurous cook. She made it a point to cook foods from different cultures and turned these meals into cultural lessons. Many of these meals came from Time-Life's Foods of the World series. I would read the entire series cover to cover at least once a year from ages 9 - 15. During those readings, I would find myself cooking at least one of the recipies. Usually cookies :' ) It's to my mother's credit that she even let me near those books - her cookbooks are some of her most precious posessions.

- We used to celebrate at least 1 evening of Hanukkah and 1 evening of Passover each year with family friends. If my parents had friends who celebrated other faiths, we would have joined them too. As I've gotten older, I've been very fortunate to have friends from a wide range of faiths that invite me to celebrate important holidays. Again, I learn more from those experiences than from any book.

- Dad continues to be my most ardent supporter in any academic endeavor. He was the one who set the "2 master's degrees with long gaps in between" model that I have followed thus far.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have parent who implicitly understood the importance of "modeling" behaviors and providing opportunities for learning and growth without forcing the issue.

I suspect that those experiences drove me to study history (for longer than I probably should have), encouraged me to continue my education (both formally and informally), and helped to develop my fidgety mind.

Thanks Mom and Dad!!!!!!

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