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My father and Jake Beason, a couple of "old-school" teachers
Click to visit VeggieCooking.com 28 July 2002
Pam Rotella

My father passed away last year, surprising all of us. His father had lived to be almost 100 years old, and at the age of 69 dad seemed so healthy. He was still teaching school, and had just called in sick on the morning of October 1st -- the morning he had a brain aneurysm, never to recover. Many people who came to his funeral were teachers and students at Milwaukee Public Schools. Afterwards, my brother and I helped our mother clean her house and move into her new apartment. Some of dad's papers came to me because mom was going to throw them away. The following letter was one of those documents.

The author, Jake Patton Beason, was one of my father's coworkers and friends at Milwaukee Public Schools, and author of the book "Why We Lose: an Anthology for Black People's Cultural Survival" (1989). I wish I could provide a link to amazon.com for Beason's book, but unfortunately references to it are scarce on the internet. That's probably because it was written before the internet became popular. In fact, references to Beason himself are rare, and Beason passed away before my father did. So I'm going to assume he'd give me permission to provide him with some publicity and put his short letter on the internet. Obviously, if someone owns the copyright to this (such as Mr. Beason's heirs), and doesn't want it on the internet or specifically on my personal web page, feel free to contact me. The letter was postmarked 25 June 1993, and according to US Copyright law, was copyrighted by Mr. Beason as soon as he finished writing it. But if no one objects, then I feel compelled to provide this for both its insight and historical value with regard to Beason's work.

The letter was probably sent to my father for feedback, suggestions, and proofreading. Most authors have key people who proofread and help edit their work, and my father served that role for Mr. Beason. They were a couple of men who shared similar views on the plight of their students, education, and the home environments which seemed to limit students' academic ability at times. This letter is an example of beliefs that may seem controversial today, but frankly, Beason has a good point. The beauty of this letter is that it really applies to all Americans, not just the usual subject of Beason's writings -- the African-American community:

My Opinion Editor:
By Jake P. Beason
Author of WHY WE LOSE

When I was growing up in the South before World War II, I had no time to be "bored". I had so many things to do around the house: taking out the ashes, emptying the pan under the icebox, running to the store, scrubbing the floors on my knees. Every day I looked forward to finally finishing my chores so that I could go out to play with my friends or go walking in the woods.

But today the most common complaint among children is "I'm so bored. There's nothing to do around here." So parents worry about how they are going to make life more entertaining for their children to keep them out of trouble. They take them shopping to buy fancy clothes and give them money to go to the show and concerts, never asking themselves what kind of adults and what kind of society we are creating by raising our children to believe that life should always be fun and full of goodies.

The family used to be a place where children were needed to do things. Children had a sense of their value (or what we now call "Self-Esteem"), because they knew they were making a contribution. But today there is little in the way of useful activities that the average family has to offer children. In single-parent or two-parent households, adults go off to work and send the kids off to school or to a baby-sitter. Then when the parents come home, they feel they ought to offer the kids something to amuse them.

The family used to be a place where children learned that to be a full human being you need to do your share of the work that is necessary to maintain the household. By working around the house children learned early in life what it means to belong and to be socially responsible. That is what was meant by raising children.

But after we came to the city we stopped doing things for ourselves and began depending on others to do for us. In the process, we lost our understanding of the relationship between the family, work and the raising of children. We no longer see the role of the family as the raising of the next generation to become responsible adults. Instead folks have children to satisfy their personal need for someone to love or to prove that they are a man or a woman. We don't see work as a way to develop our distinctively human capacities to produce goods and services and to cooperate with one another. We only see work as a "Job" or something that is done to make money. We have reduced everything to material benefits and to making money. Instead of providing kids with opportunities to be useful, we struggle to "give them the things I didn't have when I was growing up."

We try to get kids out of our way by sitting them down before the TV set or by sending them out to play. If we need them to do something around the house, we pay them. Then we complain when, like workers in a factory, they want to be paid more.

We don't think of Education as a process by which children expand their capacities. We tell children to stay in school so that eventually they can get a job making a lot of money. Then we are surprised when many of our young people say, "Why should I stay in school so that I can get a job, when I can make a lot of money now selling drugs?"

Most people think that the solution to "boredom" is to provide more entertainment and recreation. My own view is that our children would be less bored and their self-esteem would be higher if we gave them more opportunities to be useful.

It isn't going to be easy to turn this situation around in today's cities. But we can start by involving children, beginning with little ones, in work around the house and in the community.

Jake P. Beason
Retired MPS teacher

[Preceding letter addressed to Mr. William Rotella, postmarked 25 June 1993 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin]

Other health and nutrition articles from pamrotella.com
Today's medical fad: The Genetic Myth
Essential Fatty Acids, the "healthy fats" we all need
Copper: What aneurysms, white hair, and wrinkles have in common
Dr. Lawrence Broxmeyer's BACTERIAL Mad Cow Disease theory
Mad Cow and Mark Purdey's Organophosphate theory
Multiple Sclerosis: The mercury/parasites model
Alternative medicine vs. the common cold and flu
Hulda Clark: A cure for cancer and AIDS?
Vegans and the B-12 deficiency myth
Aspartame, MSG, and other excitotoxins
Sickle Cell Anemia: Dr. Agbai and B-12 deficiency

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Letter © 1993 by Jake Patton Beason, introduction © 2002 by Pam Rotella.

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