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I'D LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO WHAT?!?

I'D LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO WHAT?!?

By: L. Neil Smith

I'D LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO WHAT?!?
 
 
I was born in 1946, a genuine Baby Boomer. My dad was a career Air
Force officer, and by the mid-1950s, I was going to Boy Scout camp.
The place where we lived, not very far from St. John's, Newfoundland,
couldn't possibly have been more wonderful. (One year we were guests
at Argentia Naval Air Station, but that's another story, all about
canoeing, waking up every morning with the smell of estuary sea-life
in your nostrils and yellow sunlight glinting off mirror-smooth salt
water, learning to skin an eel, and meeting the pop singer Connie
Francis.)
 
I had a terrible time at scout camp in the beginning. I became
unspeakably homesick: I missed my family, my cats, my possessions -- I
was probably the only 11-year-old in Newfoundland who had his own
laboratory. I was a head shorter than I should have been, and had big
ideas and a bigger mouth, which won me more than one Knuckle Sandwich
Award.
 
Slowly I adjusted. I discovered I was good with boats and canoes.
I learned to swim. I collected a gallon of lake water that I took home
and kept until it turned a sort of khaki color and Mom made me throw
it out -- well away from the house. Before that black moment, though,
I learned more about my microscope, water fleas, aquatic plants like
spyrogyra, and a dozen protozoan species, than I ever could have from
books.
 
I also learned something else, something very important, about
myself. In those days, there was was a program on the radio (for you
younger folk, that's TV for blind people), a sort of "The Rest of the
Story" long before Paul Harvey (first one to pop up and ask "Who's
Paul Harvey?" gets one of those knuckle sandwiches I was talking
about). That program, read by the great voice-over man and character
actor, Marvin Miller (Miller later played giveaway guy Michael Anthony
on an extremely popular TV show called The Millionaire), told
strange stories. It's where I first heard of Kaspar Hauser, and the
man who famously "walked around the horses". I also learned about
Heinrich Schliemann from Marvin Miller, who became a kind of hero to
me.
 
So did Schliemann, for that matter.
 
Our troop, sponsored by Pepperrell Air Force Base, had access to
every bit of World War II surplus imaginable. At camp, we slept, at
least 25 at a time, in field tents bigger than the house I now own.
One night, after lights-out -- there being no iPods, Kindles, or
smart-phones in an age when brick-sized transistor radios were just
appearing -- I started to tell my tent-mates about a program Marvin
Miller had just aired on the planet Mars, with additional observations
from a book I was reading on the subject by Willy Ley and Werner von
Braun.
 
I was also reading Red Planet by Robert A, Heinlein.
 
I told them about the icy polar caps, and with other features that
seemed to change with the seasons (remember that our best Mars-peeking
device at the time was the 200-inch Hale Telescope on Mount Palomar).
I told them about Giovanni Schiaparelli's observations of canali on
the Martian surface, and of Percival Lowell's maps of the Martian
canals.
 
For my big finish, at a time when the Soviet Union's little tin
marvel Sputnik had just dirtied the underwear of every military and
civilian authority in the Free World, especially those who foolishly
imagined that they were educators, I told them that, just before the
War Between the States, astronomers had closely observed Mars and made
no mention of satellites. However, after the war, the same astronomers
had looked at Mars with the same instrments and discovered two tiny
moons, whizzing around the Red Planet in almost perfectly circular
orbits. Conclusion: they had to be artificial, put up between 1860 and
1865.
 
Put up, obviously, by aliens.
 
None of what I said that night is very important now, most of it
roundly debunked by science over the next five decades. The important
thing, to me, anyway, is that the littlest kid in the class and the
perennial punching bag, had held two dozen energy-filled boys between
11 and 14 years old silent and spellbound for more than an hour, with
words, an extemporaneous lecture on the universe and some of its
wonders.
 
Gimme a wheelchair, I coulda been Stephen Hawking.
 
And no, I didn't put them to sleep. They had plenty of questions
afterward. At that moment, during the last few seconds of that talk, I
realized that I had become intoxicated in some way. It took a while
for the buzz to wear off, and I have craved it ever since. I still get
it every time I lecture in public. I also knew who I was, better than
ever before, and with it, what I was intended, by my basic nature, to
do.
 
It looked like I was a teacher of some kind. But as it turned out,
I would never have been able to jump though the flaming hoops of
academia necessary to become a licensed practitioner of the powerful
brain-damaging techniques of modern pedagogy. Nor would I be welcomed
for long, even as a guest, in any school operated or influenced by the
educational establishment -- or even the libertarian establishment. It
must have been that big mouth thing again. Here in Colorado, it's too
cold to hold forth out on the front porch like, Zeno the Stoic. So my
pupils, in the end, would be anyone in the world who bought one of the
books I would write, and my classroom would be the insides of their
heads.
 
But what would I teach? Heinlein I had already discovered. It
would be a few years before I encountered Ayn Rand, and even longer
before I met Robert LeFevre and realized that I was meant to teach
liberty.
 
But that, too, is another story.
 
L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 33 freedom-oriented books, including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than Wine, and  DOWN WITH POWER: Libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis.Visit his webpage at LNeilSmith.Org
 
 
 

 



 
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