Once again I find myself sitting in my old and dilapidated beach chair reminiscing about the summer that was about to come to an end. The last of our summer visitors are enjoying their final times on the beaches and in the sun. The final summer visitors of our beach seem remarkably white this time of year; almost translucent. Those of us who are fortunate to spend a lot of time on the beach call these people, "August Whites". Of course, this is not fair because it is obvious that these people have worked hard during the summer months. But, why does everything have to be fair?
I always consider this time my New Year's Eve. Being a teacher this end of summer marks the time when I can once again become part of the dreams and aspirations of many young men and women. Every year these young men and women become smarter and more motivated. The news reports that state that today's children are not as smart as the children of the past simply don't get it. Today's youth have to deal with technologies and matters of society that no child in the past has ever been confronted with. Because of this, my final day on the beach is a great time to think about the past few months and wonder what the future has in store for us all.
We are in the second year of new President this year and his promised policies are starting to take effect. At least we hope so. The War in Iraq seems to be coming to an end and there is actually a deadline for our brave men and women to return from Afghanistan. Maybe these moves will allow our nation to rebuild the treasures that were lost for the past eight years. Of course we can't save the men and women who were lost. For this our nation's hearts remain heavy.
Many of our economists have predicted our economy is on an upward slide. Since many across our nation have now hit rock bottom I hope this is true. I feel frustration for many of my talented students who have to give up their dreams of going to schools and universities they earned to go to. They simply can't afford them. There is something remarkably wrong about that. We are promised that jobs will return to our economy. I have a difficult time believing this because a nation that does not make anything needs few people.
The President is also pushing for his new energy policy that will free us from the prison of imported oil. We just suffered through a decade of war because of this imported oil BP showed us that domestic oil can also lead to tragedy. I wish we could just leave the stuff in the ground. If we put the concepts of more jobs and getting rid of our dependence on oil this policy may make sense.
Once again I fear for the old, the sick, and the poor. Nothing has changed in the past year. The oil companies are all geared up to overcharge for heating oil and gasoline. Our health care system is worse off than it was a year ago. Medicine prices have increased well above any inflation rate. Insurance companies continue with their double-digit increases in premiums to the point that more and more people have to go without the medical treatment they need.
Education is now on the front burner this school year. I assume with all the problems confronting our nation there was a need for a scapegoat. What could be better scapegoats than a system and people whose sole purpose is to help. Money is being thrown at this problem but in the wrong places. I am sure the leaders of state standardized tests will become richer even though they stand behind the concept they run a non-profit business. I am sure more tests will be developed that mean absolutely nothing. I am also sure there will be more computer programs to track our children from Kindergarten through College, from their first cavity to the time of their death. I am saddened because I have to learn all these programs.
I am sure there will be debates concerning the relationship of science and religion. I can never figure out this battle between science and religion. Albert Einstein said it best when he explained that, "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."
I am sure there will be debates over social issues across our nation. These I can never figure out because our nation was based upon the concepts of tolerance and freedom. My father always told me that what doesn't hurt you can't kill you. My hopes are that people will be left alone to do what they think is right. I doubt this will ever happen.
I still consider myself the luckiest man around. I have a beautiful wife who seems to be getting younger every year. My daughter is leading a strong and healthy life in Boston. At 34 years old this is exactly where she should be. She met her perfect mate and produced the most beautiful baby girl I have ever seen. She is healthy, happy, and so very smart. I am now living for the day she looks up at me and calls me, "Poppy".
Many questions flow through my mind as I sit where the ocean meets the shore. The only thing that seems to remain constant is my dilapidated old beach chair. Sometimes I think that keeping my chair is my quest to hang onto a part of my life that I hope will never change. This is always a time of hope for me. In the past, I have hoped that our nation's leaders will consider their actions more important than their promises. This year just isn't promoting that kind of hope. Health care reform, an environmentally geared energy policy, election reform, and finance reform can only be found in the archives of election year promises. Most of the time our town's leaders seem more concerned with how they look versus what they do.
I look around and notice the babies of the beach starting to grow up and some of the new parents grow a bit wider. As for me, it is about time to hang up my dilapidated beach chair for another year in the hopes that next year will prove to be another one of my best.
Jim Fabiano, a teacher and writer who lives in York, Maine and is a past recipient of the Maine Press Association's award for Best Weekly Column. He is also the recipient of the Theodore William Richards Award for excellence in teaching chemistry and is a member of the AULA LAUDIS Society of the American Chemical Society.