Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Teach Your Children Well

On Monday I was working at the Council Quilt Guild Annual Quilt Show. It's being held at Council Elementary School in Council, Idaho. (In case you didn't catch the location - it's Council. ). From 11:00 to 1:00 each day during the summer, a free lunch is served to needy children at the school. So two different events were going on at the same time.

I went out to my car to grab my knitting - I know, I know, but the quilt in progress was too big to haul down there - and heard some boys screaming "Starling! Starling! Kill the starling!"

They were chasing and running and then converging upon a nest that had been built high above the entry door of the school. I stopped and in my best retired teacher voice inquired, "What the heck are you doing?"

"It's a starling! They're bad!" one of the about 10 year old boys informed me, eyeing the nest with 5 babies perched on the rim.

Seizing the teachable moment, I explained, "Those are swallows. They eat mosquitoes. Do you like mosquito bites?"

"I thought they ate worms," the young ringleader replied.

"No," I repeated. Mosquitoes. And each of those baby swallows, when it grows up, will eat nearly 3,000 mosquitoes a day. " I finished up this mini-lecture with, "Leave them alone."

At this point, a young mother walked up to see what was going on. She said nothing. I waited until the gang of four had wheeled off in search of other trouble to get into and then smiled at her. She looked confused. She most likely didn't know the difference herself. More disturbingly, she probably didn't care.

The point here, and it's a long way around the barn, is that ignorance is the big problem and it manifests in many different guises. We can't just assume that people know what we know. Children need to be taught right from wrong, good from evil, good decisions from ones that will bring them painful consequences, and sometimes - the simple difference between a starling and a swallow. A brief aside here - starlings also have their place in the greater scheme of things.

The Arrogance of Ignorance is a far more serious problem than the fuel crisis or the crippled economy. Some people are certain of what they know, even when what they know is actually incorrect. So, what's the connection to food preservation?

You'll encounter many well-intentioned people who will all too willingly give you advice on how to put up your food, using shortcuts their great-aunt Tillie or their hairdresser gave them. They'll treat these orts of info as gospel. Be careful. Always check with a reliable source before setting out on a shortcut that seems too good to be true. The Extension Service is always available for you, to give you the right answers. You'll find their number in your phone book.

With the right information you'll learn to distinguish a starling from a swallow, dill from hemlock, and morels from their poisonous cousins. And you'll be able to pass on this knowledge to others.


  1. That's a great story, Karen, and the lesson can be applied to many things. Ignorance can destroy lives (baby swallows) or a person's reputation, or it can simply mess up a recipe (as when I followed a low-cal chicken pot pie recipe to the letter even though I sensed the pepper measurement called for was ridiculously large). Nice post.

  2. Thanks Patricia. As I watch this wave of ignorance sweep over our country, I get fearful for our future.

  3. Karen,

    I can see the integrity in your posts. Maybe you should repackage your book as The Guide to Preserving Food for Complete Idiots.

    Steve Tremp

  4. Karen, what a wise and wonderful post. And oh so true. Ignorance and the disease of "rightness" is so endemic in our society. Big sigh! Won't we ever learn?

  5. Thanks to you both, Stephen and Karen. Appreciate much your insights.

  6. Gee, Karen, this is good. I gotta admit, I was hooked by sentence two. Nicely told. I gather this is true.

    Confession. When I was very young, probably less than 10, maybe less than eight (trying for pre-cover here I suppose.) Anyway, I threw a rock at a Robin…for no other reason than to see if I could hit it. It’s a boy thing. (More cover.)

    Well, I did hit it…one in a million shot. I felt horrible. I do believe the poor thing got up and staggered off, but, that part I’m not too sure about. (Repression.) Anyway, I’ve always felt bad about that. Not sure what the point of my comment is... But, I’m sorry it happened. I never did it again. Never went hunting. The fish I catch, I release without exception, so, I’m hoping I’m not the guy in Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter.

    Best regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  7. What a great teaching lesson! It is so true that sometimes you jump into an assumption instead of ascrertaining the facts. Very nice post.

    Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

  8. Thanks Galen and Nancy. I enjoy your comments always. Galen, did you know that Walt Disney felt so bad about having participated in the killing of an owl (another group children thing) that he vowed to teach future generations to love wildlife. And the rest, as they say, is history.

  9. lovely descriptive post. In the internet age truth is not always easier to find. I often turn to it when I have a problem but I know that I must be careful whose advice to take. To counter ignorance one needs to learn to ask questions.


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~ I'm the author of Headwind: The Intrepid Adventures of OSS Agent Katrin Nissen. If you're a WWII buff, you'll like it here!