I really loved speaking to Alysha Guidry's sixth-grade science classes at Westside Junior High in Walker the other day. The students were enthusiastic and inquisitive, and they laughed when I said something that I hoped was funny.
There were two biologists with me. They were far more interesting because they had real fish to display. Together, we detailed all of the great things that go on in the world of fishing, hunting, walking and observing nature. I took note of the children, their actions, their seating arrangements, their smiles and how they interacted with each other. It just grabbed my attention.
At the end of the day, I hoped I could harness what I saw. Those children are the future I want to see.
The biologists wowed the students by discussing fun stuff like how to determine the age of a fish. If you're interested, you'll have to Google that on your own.
Each class was diverse. There were no all-black or all-white tables. All of the students appeared to get along. There were smiles all around. I don’t know if this was by happenstance or by design. But, whatever it was, I liked it.
The students made me hopeful that the divisive foolishness of us grown folk hadn’t rubbed off on them yet. Maybe we hadn’t poisoned their minds about race and prejudice. Maybe it was too early for them to buy into all of the differences that we want to impose on people.
They probably hadn’t gotten into the crap-hole characterizations of our world yet. They were just kids. They simply talked about how much they loved to fish and hunt and how much they liked doing those things with their parents.
One boy proudly announced it was his mother who would take him fishing, his pronouncement breaking the notion that only men and fathers teach young boys to fish and hunt. Guess what: No one said a thing.
As the children moved around in the classroom to look at some of the items brought for them to touch, there was no outburst, grumbling or anything. They just interacted. They were all awed by what they were seeing and taking note of what was before them.
Another great moment came when one little boy was explaining something in great detail about a fish. He sensed he was going on a little long when he announced, “I am a nerd, alright?” Absolutely no one laughed or rolled their eyes. Who were these kids?
Had the teacher warned them early on to be on their best behavior? Did she issue threats? I don’t know. She didn't seem like that kind of teacher. Then came the icing on the cake. Just before one of my presentations, a little girl with a big smile and big glasses walked up to me, said “Hi,” and stuck out her hand. She was so over-the-top that it caught me off guard. But I mirrored her smile and gave her big handshake. We both seemed pleased.
Would that attitude be there if I come back and see the same students in two or three years?
Those children had earnest, short discussions about fishing and hunting. There was order in their speech. Why can’t our lawmakers speak like that?
In the end, I wanted to bottle up what I saw in Guidry’s class and show it to our adults — and especially to our nasty government officials to let them know there is such a thing as civility.
I have the wisdom to know that what I saw in the classroom may not be what happens on the playground and the cafeteria and in the community. I get that. But I would like to think that what I saw the other day at Westside Junior at least gave me some hope, if only for the few hours I was there.
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at firstname.lastname@example.org.