An Outlook

You may find this difficult to believe (I certainly do), but the first column I wrote in Door County (or anywhere else for that matter) appeared near the end of July in 1994. That means I have been doing this, more or less steadily for 15 years now.

While this seems like a very long time by my standards, there are others who have been faithfully penning words for publications far longer than my efforts have lasted. Elsewhere in these pages you will find the latest effort from Roy Lukes and, in another peninsula publication, you can still find Keta Steebs observations on life.

Still, 15 years is quite a stretch (if I do say so myself) so, I thought I’d celebrate the occasion by going back to find a couple of items from my very first columns. Hopefully, you won’t find the ones I’ve chosen to be too dated (keep in mind that these words were written in the late summer of 1994) and I will return next week with something new as I begin the next 15 years of publishing in Door County’s finest publication:  The Peninsula Pulse.


Item #1:  While I readily admit to a rather sweeping personal disdain for California, I am also willing to acknowledge that, given time, if you put enough crazy ideas into practice one of them is bound to turn up as a good idea. Such an event recently occurred in the land of earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, aliens of every type, and Shirley MacLaine, and it’s an idea that deserves serious consideration throughout the rest of the country.

What California, the land of drive or die, has done is to create the country’s “ultimate driving test.” How difficult is the new test? Apparently stringent enough that 1/2 of everyone who takes it fails.

At a Hollywood testing office recently, an Armenian immigrant was seen screaming “Why? Why?” It seems the would-be driver in question managed to fail the test before even leaving his parking spot at the curb. The explanation in the examiner’s report stated succinctly, “Pulling out of parking lot, driving applicant did not look back at all.”

In another reported incident, a “driving applicant” was failed before they even started the car because they could not identify the parking brake.

Now a good portion of my interest in this sort of test is due to a long July and August on Door County’s roadways. California lawmakers theorize that a more difficult driving test will help make drivers take their responsibilities more seriously and, with luck, will keep the worst offenders off the road. Whether this proves to be the case remains to be seen and, in actuality, the test is not particularly hard since it requires only basic maneuvers and does not require a parallel parking exercise.

All this started me thinking, however, about the possibility of required testing for driving offenders. Consider how delightful it would be if repeat offenders for violations like failing to use a turn signal (a personal peeve of mine) had their license suspended until such time as they took and passed a driving exam, where the minute details of their driving performance were scrutinized. I’m willing to bet that anyone who had to undergo such an ordeal will never in a waking moment while driving forget to use their turn signal again.

This will probably never materialize, but it’s an interesting concept, even if it did arise from an idea born our solar system’s tenth planet.


Item #2:  Last year, 29,000 high school home-economics teachers across the country received a teaching guide prepared by Scholastic, Inc. and Revlon, the cosmetic company giant. The guide was entitled “Hot Looks, Cool Style” and it opens with a preface to the teacher which reads:

“The activities listed below will help your students discover why hair behaves the way it does, and what to do about it. It’s a lively and entertaining program that will involve your entire class, because hair is so important to a teen’s self-image.”

Among a variety of activities suggested in the guide are the following (I swear, I am not making this up):

“Ask students to bring in pictures of themselves from days they consider ‘good’ and ‘bad’ hair days. Mount them on a bulletin board and have students describe what a good and bad hair day means to them.”

Another suggestion has students bringing in pictures from magazines, newspapers, etc., and having the class guess information about the subjects. “Then reveal the true identities of the people…and discuss whether their hairstyles suit their ages, personalities, and professions. Have students offer hairstyle suggestions to improve the subject’s credibility, authority, and effectiveness.”

Now take some time here and picture this:  your photo appears in the local paper and ends up in a home-economics class where the students discuss your relative merits based upon the way your hair behaves. Scary? You bet. But this is a learning experience for young minds, right?

One last activity from the study guide:  “Students who have developed a successful hair regimen will swear there are products they can’t live without. Start a discussion by asking the following question:  ‘If you were stranded on a desert island with fresh water to wash your hair, which three hair care products would you have to have, and why?”

Hello! Is it just me? Am I the only one who, if stranded on a desert island would be thankful for fresh water to drink and wouldn’t give a tinker’s damn about my hair?

Understand, I am not making light of home-economics programs or education, but the above clap-trap posing as progressive education is an insult to the student’s intelligence. Do Scholastic and Revlon really believe that any student subjected to these “activities” will take it seriously? And are we really suppose to believe that Revlon has any interest in this endeavor other than capturing the attention of a young audience with their products? Corporate endorsements are everywhere these days, and now, apparently, they are creeping into our classroom’s curriculum.

Meanwhile, over in Shop class, students, working from the Scholastic/Stanley Tools workbook, are answering the question, “Which three tools they would have to have if they were stranded on an island with plenty of hard woods?”

Teacher:  Yes, Johnny. What three tools would you choose?

Johnny:  Well, I’d choose a mallet so I could pound in posts for the frame of a hut. And I choose pliers in case I got a splinter that I had to pull. (Laughs from the class)

Teacher:  Very good, Johnny. Go ahead.

Johnny:  And I’d choose a chainsaw to cut the wood.

Teacher: Johnny, Stanley doesn’t make a chainsaw. You know very well you can only choose from tools that are made by our corporate sponsor.

Johnny:  Rats. Well, I’d want some protection so I guess I’d choose a semi-automatic assault rifle of some sort.

Teacher:  You’re losing sight of what class you’re in young man. Save responses like that for the Soldier of Fortune workbook in your Civics Class.

Okay. I made the Shop class stuff up, but you get my drif