With our grandson Owen a mere 75 minutes away by Jet Blue, Hannah and I love to fly to the Commonwealth of Virginia to see him and his parents. Travelers, don’t you love Jet Blue! Sports Center, the Weather Channel, and MSNBC are at our finger tips on the television directly in front of our seats. With the in-flight television, time flies! (You saw that coming, didn’t you?)
Touching down at Reagan Airport at 8A on a mid-May Thursday, we will not be picked up as we often are since both our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip are working. We have no choice but to call for a Red Top cab. Hold the presses! Sixty-five years old and we two have never been in a cab.
As we slip into the back seat, we come face to face with a video screen showing us exactly what the charges will be, and that they can all be paid with our Visa card. We can see how every sixth of mile, the fare increases 35 cents. In the final screen, there is even a place to include the percentage tip, 15, 20 or 25. Dan and Hannah go big time and give the driver 20% for our 3.6 mile ride from the airport.
Amazingly, we are in Molly and Tip’s apartment at 830A and have a full day in the Washington, DC metro area ahead of us. Though I am a road trip kind of guy, I do love to fly. If we had driven from Maine today, at this moment we’d be stuck in some Merritt Parkway traffic in Connecticut with Big Bad New York City, the New Jersey Turnpike, the tunnels of Baltimore, and the dreaded Washington DC beltway ahead of us.
By 930A we are on bikes riding along the Potomac River to the National Mall in Washington just seven miles away. On this Thursday midmorning we have easy biking on the meandering riverside trails.
Across the Memorial Bridge with the Lincoln Memorial in the foreground we have the biking trails as our oyster. Fun fact: Today there are no direct descendants of Abraham Lincoln.
One hundred yards away, we stop by the Viet Nam Memorial. In 1981, at age 21 and while still a Yale undergraduate, Maya Lin won a public design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, beating out 1,441 other competition submissions
Close by is the World War II Memorial. Thank you Mom and Dad for your service and to all members of the Best Generation. Most veterans are near 90 since the war ended some 68 years ago.
Scaffolding surrounds the Washington Monument, which is now off limits to the public after the earthquake in August of 2011. It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population felt the earthquake, more than any earthquake in U.S. history.
We see the Capitol in the distance; where the dysfunctional come to play and mess with our lives. (Oh, that’s being a little negative!)
Veering off the National Mall, we come to the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin. The memorial was dedicated in 1943 on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth.
And then it’s the George Mason Memorial.In two days Molly graduates in from George Mason University. He was a mentor of George Washington and quite the ladies man as you can see.
We never get enough of the architectural brilliance of the Martin Luther King Memorial with its visual metaphor of Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope.
One of the 14 Martin Luther King, jr. panels highlights his words, Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
All this majesty at our finger tips. But we are not alone. Hundreds and hundreds of middle schoolers in matching fluorescent orange or green or cardinal red shirts are visiting Washington, too. They are everywhere. Going off in random directions, flirting, bored, and often tired of walking.
As a former middle school teacher who took kids on field trips, I rarely remember having any follow up activities based on the field trip. For this, I am not proud. Today I wonder what is the purpose of bringing kids to Washington. Tradition? Appreciation of America’s past? Making history tangible? Appreciation of being an American? Likely, maybe, maybe, and unlikely.
And if those are some of the reasons, how then do the teachers know that students have achieved those goals? How do teachers know that their students were successful? Projects? Presentations? Papers? Tests? It’s May. Really? Call me a fool, but I’d like to think a few schools determine what learning went on when they return from Washington.
Or is it just a nice time of year to get away, when students and teachers of the Northeast are weary of each other after nine months of the classroom’s four walls? Is it just to give the parents of middle schoolers a three day break from dealing with the drama and hormones of teenagers? If so, let’s be honest and admit it.
We see the teachers reminding, cajoling, rule explaining, and directing. (Interestingly, we never saw one kid texting.) It’s got to be exhausting for everyone. We wonder if they possibly pay middle school teachers enough for what lies ahead tonight back at the motel!
I think not.