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Examiner
  • Jeff Fox: Have some fun, learn a little

  • I’m not quite to the stage in life where I’m sitting on the porch, screaming at kids to stay off my lawn, though I can see that one about three stoplights down the road.

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  • I’m not quite to the stage in life where I’m sitting on the porch, screaming at kids to stay off my lawn, though I can see that one about three stoplights down the road.
    I’m more at the sit-down-this-is-gonna-take-a-minute and hear-me-out stage. Part of it is the “kids oughtta” rant.
    Every kid ought to see the state Capitol. Every kid ought to see the Arch in St. Louis, and the zoo (and the KC Zoo). And the Truman Library, Liberty Memorial and the World War One Museum, and the Cosmosphere.
    Every kid – boy or girl, Scout or non-Scout – ought to go through the steps of earning the Cooking Merit Badge. That way, at least they learn how to burn water before resigning themselves to a lifestyle of takeout pizza and microwaved quasi-food.
    Here’s one the Scouts found last weekend. Every kid – certainly every Missouri kid – should learn the story of John “Blackjack” Pershing, a Missouri native who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. His was a life of hard times, struggle, the test of combat, devastating loss, supreme triumph and hard-earned respect.
    His boyhood home in Laclede in north-central Missouri is a state historic site, as is the nearby schoolhouse where he briefly taught before heading for West Point. There’s a state park named for him just down the road, and there’s one of the state’s few remaining covered wooden bridges. And last weekend the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge a few miles away was holding ducks, pelicans and herons.
    Our Scout troop took it all in, and the boys loved it, mostly because no one told them they were learning something, namely history and a little ecology. It’s an odd phenomenon. If you ask about going to a museum, their eyes roll into the backs of their heads. But if you say, let’s buzz over to Kansas City and do World War I, you get them in the door. Later, you have to drag them out because they don’t want to leave.
    We tend to think of World War II, which is closer to us in history, as the thing that shaped the world we know and that echoed for decades, and that’s substantially true, but all of that tends to obscure what came before. World War One wasn’t just a brutal, grinding war. It shattered the myth of a stable, manageable world system, and it thrust America into a new and uncomfortable role. It is part of our experience, and the story needs to be told.
    I’ve often observed that in our part of the country we have a wealth of unique assets – the World War One Museum, the Truman Library, the Eisenhower Library, the Brown vs. Board of Education site in Topeka, the Cosmosphere in far-off Hutchinson, Kan., and the Strategic Air Command Museum near Omaha – that collectively tell the story of America from its emergence as a world leader through the space race and most of the Cold War. Every kid – every one of us – should see them.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Scouts love the annual trip to Jefferson City, in part because it involves a train ride and really good Greek pizza across the street from the Capitol. I’m not seeing the harm in any of that. I like Greek pizza, too, and I’m a big fan of education on the sly.
    Yes, every kid should ride the train, should know the Truman story – know it well – and should appreciate the view from the Arch. It helps if they have a little fun along the way. And maybe one day they’ll stay off my lawn.
    Reach Jeff Fox at 816-350-6313 or jeff.fox@examiner.net. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_Fox.

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