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A Glimpse of Heaven:  What I Learned From Max and Gwen
Bob Jensen at Trinity University
http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/max01.htm

 

Introduction
Grandmother Dourte’s Back Porch

Growing Up With Pride During the War Years

My Early School Years in Algona

What I Learned from Max Kahlen

What I Learned From Gwen Egel

It’s a New Era, Even in Algona

My Glimpse of Heaven

Bob Jensen’s Obsession With the Internet

August 9, 2000Special Update

January 10, 2008 Update

 

 

 

Introduction

 

I just returned from visiting my father in Algona, Iowa.  Sitting in my den in San Antonio, my eyes focus on the window’s heavy steel burglar bars.  Yonder, across the pool, stands my brick fence with its iron gates and padlocks.  When we’re not in the yard, the steel grates in front of all doors are dead bolted.

Our fortress is never opened to strangers at the door without first stating their business via an intercom.  Within reach of our bed is a sawed-off shotgun in a drawer.  It’s not like we have ever been burglarized or threatened.  Our paranoia and mean-spirited precautions in near the close of the 20th Century are products of this era of fear exacerbated by media horror stories.

This morning I ate a lump of oatmeal in cholesterol-free rice milk.  I can remember back on the farm when the men returned from the morning milking.  Each man would down a dozen or more boiled or scrambled eggs and thick slices of bread baked fresh each dawn on the big Clarion iron stove.  The bread would be dipped in thick cream toted up from the barn.  The plates were licked clean, because there was no ice box on our country farm.  There wasn’t even running water.  Afterwards, the men would take turns in the outhouse where stacked Sears and Roebuck catalogs served two purposes, only one of which entailed dreaming about things we couldn’t afford.

 

Grandmother Dourte’s Back Porch

I think back to my earliest days in Swea City with my grandparents ---back to when I was a small boy in the magnificent “town farm” built by a wheeler-dealing, horse-trading landowner named Christian Granville (Grant) Dourte.  My Grandfather Dourte built a splendid house and barn in Swea City.  In 1940, Swea City had 47 people and 168 Swedes.  Fewer hobos passed through town during the war years, but one or two passing through each day stepped down from the boxcars and proceeded directly to Swea City’s well-known Dourte town farm.  My Grandmother Mayme Kerr Dourte never allowed us to use the words “hobo,” “beggar,” “bum,” or “drunken sot.”  She called these itinerants our friends in need.  Their skin color never mattered two hoots.

When a whiskered man in rags rapped lightly on the unlatched screen door, there was sometimes a frightened toddler hiding behind my grandmother’s dress.  She greeted the strangers in Methodist benevolence with hot coffee and apple cider.  Because of their lice and body odors, she never invited them into the house --- Methodist benevolence had its limits.  But while they sipped on their coffee and cider on the back porch, she loaded up china plates heaped with mashed potatoes, pickled beets, string beans, and baked chicken or pot roast depending on whether it was an even or odd day of the week.  Afterwards, each “unfortunate friend” on the back porch got a generous wedge of apple pie that must’ve been nearly three inches thick in the center.  The only thing my grandmother ever asked in return is that each recipient bow in a personal, silent prayer before leaving.

Fear of theft or bodily harm just did not seem to exist for Grandmother Dourte.  She held a deep and abiding faith.  The town of Swea City did not have a single constable in those years.  There were hunting guns on the place, but Grandma never allowed guns and cigars in the house.  Whiskey was not allowed anywhere on the property.  She never learned about the bottles of Old Crow that my Grandfather Dourte always hid in the side pocket of that old Franklin automobile stored in the big barn behind the orchard.  Being a snoop, I discovered where the whiskey was hid, but I never revealed my kindly grandfather’s pint-sized secrets.

When a small pox epidemic hit Swea City, the Dourte house became a quarantined town hospital.  My grandmother, who was immune to small pox, treated every case day and night.  She also helped the town prostitute up in the East Bedroom when the woman became racked with syphilis. 

The barn was never closed, and the house was never locked.  There were locks on the house doors, but the keys got lost in 1900 when the house was built and were never replaced.  My mother had new keys cut for the locks when they carted my grandmother off to a nursing home in 1962.

Grandmother Dourte never attended church in the last 42 years of her long life.  She fretted that some stranger in need of Sunday dinner would lightly rap on the back door. 

You can read more about draft horses and my Grandfather Dourte at http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/tidbits/2008/tidbits080118.htm

 

Growing Up With Pride During the War Years

Between 1940 and 1944, I was a small boy growing up in Algona, Swea City, and a farm near Seneca.  Seneca really wasn’t a town since it only had a school, a general store, and two houses that I can recall.  My Uncle Millen asked my father to return to the “home place” and help with the dairy farm.  In the 19th Century, their father named Julius Jensen (pronounced Yuleous Yehnson) and his wife donated a corner of the Jensen farm for a church and cemetery.  The first Blakjer Church was a sod hut.  Later, the neighboring Norwegian immigrants built a wood-framed white church that now stands vacant amidst fields of corn and soybeans.  During the war years, however, horses and buggies were tied to the front fence every Sunday morning.  Cars could have been driven to church, but gasoline was very precious during the war. 

A preacher traveled in from Bancroft after delivering his first sermon of the day to a much larger Lutheran congregation.  Because the Blakjer parsonage was vacant, my father, mother, and I moved into that parsonage so Dad could help on the farm.  Since I was not yet old enough for school, I cannot remember most things from those years in great detail.  However, I vividly recall the days of threshing.  At the crack of dawn while the men pulled the communal threshing machine toward our farm, my Grandmother Jensen and my Aunt Blanch would ring off heads of chickens with quick, whirling snaps of their wrists.  My job was to scurry after the bloodied fowl that convulsed and flopped about in search of their missing heads.  One of the things I liked least about my years on the Jensen country farm and the Dourte town farm was having to clean the pin feathers off headless fowl in buckets of scalding water. 

What I liked best in threshing season came later in the day when I stood proud and tall driving a team of horses in the field while the men pitched bundles up to “my” wagon.  I drove the heaped wagon to that chugging and clanging threshing machine where golden oats streamed, as if by magic, from out of a pipe. 

Threshing days resembled a festive celebration in a Broadway musical.  While men and their sons labored in the fields, women and their daughters set up long tables outdoors.  They prepared enormous bowls of kumla, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, lefsa, meats, bread, pies, and cakes.  When the threshing was finished on one farm, the men moved the threshing machine on to the next farm and the next farm until the granaries around Seneca were brimmed in oats needed to carry all the livestock through the long winters where winds off the Dakotas whipped up giant blizzards around farm houses that only had iron stoves for heat --- stoves fired with corn cobs and chunks of wood.

On quiet days I often rode a retired racehorse named Pride.  My Uncle Millen always kept several teams and a string of saddle horses on the farm.  Pride was a long-legged, smooth-mouthed relic about thirty years in age (ancient in horse years).  This gentle old giant would hold his head still while a five-year old cowboy stood in the manger to fasten on his bridle.  Then I leaned a ladder against the stolid beast so I could mount his bare back without a lift up. 

The first time I rode off alone on Pride I came close to getting the second spanking of my life.  I drove Pride about half mile down the road, put him in a barn, and went inside the house to play with a neighbor girl.  My mistake was not in telling anyone where I went off to on Pride.  But my rear end was spared that day, and I kept my Pride.

 

My Early School Years in Algona

In 1944, my father became the territory manager for a jobber oil company owned by his cousin Martin Jenson (our family was never consistent with the spellings of Jenson versus Jensen).  Many years later the new music building on Luther College was named after Martin Jenson.  However, in 1944 his business had just started expanding.  We moved from the farm back to a town named Algona.  Algona is the county seat of the largest county (Kossuth) in Iowa.  I have no idea how many people lived in Algona in 1944, but a good guess is a population of 4,000 or thereabouts --- it was a big town by Iowa standards. 

This was an era where children owned Midwestern towns like the squirrels and the birds own your yard.  There were no fences or locked garages.  Children on bikes roamed freely all about the town and its surrounding woods, cemeteries, pastures, and river banks.  The only fence that I recall was the sorry old fence behind the county jail downtown.  There were times when I peeked out from behind a huge maple tree hoping in vain to catch a glimpse of a bonafide convict.  But the few drunks that were thrown in the clink were probably too embarrassed to parade about in the fenced yard.

This was an era when children dreamed up their own pastimes.  Television had not been invented.  My father considered a home radio to be too much of an extravagance.  There were no Little League teams --- kids assembled whenever they liked to choose up sides for baseball in the school yard or to play kick-the-can.  My mother did not drive me anywhere, because my father always used the car day and night for his job.  Mother would bring groceries home in my red coaster wagon.

In summer and winter, children were generally outdoors.  We climbed anybody’s trees (there was no risk of lawsuits in those days), played pirates on garage roof tops, took on Panzer divisions that cranked up the roads in Riverview Cemetery, swung from ropes tied to trees atop the clay cliffs, smoked corn silks, held pissing-distance contests, and compared mysterious differences between male versus female anatomies.  Little girls with their knickers pushed down to their knees appeared to be shorted in life.  However, in those days, I was never certain that this was true for all girls --- it might’ve been only the Bradley sisters who got shorted.

When I was about six years old my play friend Joe (Kuuky) Kuckenberger and I did not know that new chimes had been installed in the Methodist Church steeple near downtown. We'd not been informed that these chimes were to commence, for the first time, resounding all over town (small Iowa farm town) at noontime later in the morning. Some older boys let us in on a secret that, when we heard chimes coming from heaven at noontime, we should watch for a golden stairway to descend that would be held up by thousands of winged angels. Just before noon Kuuky and I stood tall in our army surplus store helmets and backpacks. When the mysterious chimes did indeed resound, we scanned the blue sky with our binoculars for nearly an hour waiting for the angels and the golden stairs leading to heaven.

What I Learned from Max Kahlen

This leads up (finally) to my friend and neighbor Max Kahlen.  Max was an old man by our standards (probably over sixty years of age) and never married.  He lived on the street behind our house.  Max symbolized a bygone era that will never return on earth.  He was a carpenter and handyman about town.  His tool shop had no front door to close out the world when he was out on jobs.  Inside were rows of saws, wrenches, and a jumble of drawers and boxes that held more hardware than the stores downtown --- Max saved everything. 

The following things made Max important to the children of Algona:

·        His tool shed was never locked --- it did not even have a door.

·        Any kid was welcome to borrow the tools, although the understanding was that all tools would be returned to their proper places by the end of each day.  (Max never had any power tools that could cause serious injury.)

·        Any kid was welcome to climb into the loft and drag down pieces of lumber needed for things like tree houses, forts, rafts, or soapbox derby racers.

·        Any kid could ask Max to “consult” on the proper way to build something.  For example, Max taught me about water displacement and why you sink to your knees on a light raft.  He also taught me that you don’t build a heavy Huck Finn raft in the workshop and later drag it almost a mile to the river.  Instead, you drag each heavy piece to the river and assemble the raft on the riverbank.

My father traveled nearly every day and returned late each evening.  Max Kahlen became my mentor.  If my son spent nearly every evening in the house of an old bachelor, my worry would be that the old guy might be a pedophile.  Somehow that thought never entered the head of my parents, and most certainly Max Kahlen never took advantage of children.

What did I do those evenings with Max and his neighbor Kyle Beard?  Kyle and I watched him fix his simple meal on a woodstove and shared his bacon.  We listened to such things as Amos & Andy and Fibber McGee & Molly on his radio.  Max explained his coin collection, and I learned why a 1933 SF penny is so valuable.  He taught me to play cribbage.  I also learned about binomial expansions and how cosecant functions are related to secant functions.  Max didn’t graduate from college, but he still had the books from his year of studying engineering at Iowa University.  I think I memorized the trigonometry and only pretended to comprehend that subject until I took course in trig years later at Iowa State University.

All the above examples, however, are minor relative to the most important lessons that I learned from Max Kahlen.  Actually, the important things were not so much “learned” as they were “absorbed” in every day living.  What was important was to have a totally unselfish adult as a role model --- a man who would share anything and everything in a way that seemed to give him joy in giving his time, his talent, his hardware, his books, and his unspoken love each and every day.  What the hobos saw in my Grandmother Dourte’s Methodist benevolence, the kids of Algona found in Max Kahlen’s unbounded love for us in day-to-day growing up.

I was Dennis the Menace, but Max was no Mr. Wilson.  No child dare soap his windows, tip his outhouse, or toss rotten eggs on his front porch.  Nor would any child who knew Max Kahlen ever want to hurt him in any way.  Max was too trusting and too generous to one and all.  The doubted phrase from church that “it is better to give than receive” was no longer doubted when Max became a role model.

I can’t remember the exact year, but I can still picture my mother waking me up before breakfast with tears in her eyes.  With grave difficulty, she reported that Kyle Beard found Max Kahlen hanged in his tool shed.  As best we can surmise, Max must’ve suspected that he had cancer, possibly a tumor in his gut.  There was no Medicare in those days, and Max would’ve abhorred being a burden on anyone.  For whatever reason, this lonely man tied a rope on a rafter in the loft and jumped from the ladder with the other end tied in a noose about his neck. 

I may be the only person alive today who still thinks about Max Kahlen.  I hope that anyone reading this will learn a small bit about the most important things Max taught me about life.

 

What I Learned From Gwen Egel

I attended Grades 5 and 6 in the old Bryant School.  In the play yard, I led the mean-spirited teasing and taunting of a fat girl named Gwen Egel.  We made up chants and bragged that our school had the only live baby whale in Iowa, maybe even the world.  Gwen later moved across the way from Max Kahlen.  Instead of despising me for my mean ways, she begged to be my friend.  In a weak moment, I gave in a bit and succombed to her repeated invitations to come into her house.  Once inside, I met her nice mother and gaped in awe at her sketches, water colors, pastel chalks, and oil paintings.  My own artistic efforts should have been scooped where we piled up what comes out of the back end of a horse.  Gwen’s pieces belonged in a gallery.  Henceforth we were the best of friends on through high school.  Any boy that called her a fatty got first a warning and then my fist if it happened again. 

I don’t know what happened to Gwen Egel.  When I went off to college, she carried on in her job with a downtown photographer.  She painted over photographs in oils.  Sometime during my absence from Algona, Gwen disappeared.  I hope that she is still happy and well.  I also hope that her works of art are being displayed somewhere in the world.

What I learned firsthand from Gwen is not to get mad and vengeful when somebody is mean to you.  The absurd-sounding words “love your enemies” no longer seemed so absurd.  She struggled in every way to make friends with a brat (me) who taunted and teased her mercilessly.  She forgave the bully (again me) who once wrestled her to the ground and rubbed raw pumpkin in her face.

 

It’s a New Era, Even in Algona

In the 1940s and 1950s in Kossuth County, I can’t recall any crimes worth reporting in the local newspapers.  During my recent visit to Algona, I found the following example from the Police Beat of The Algona Upper Des Moines on July 29, 1999:

July 24
An officer gave two female juveniles a curfew warning;  the AmericInn requested an officer to check the parking lot for drinkers;  an officer aided the ambulance call at Kmart;  Charles Kline, Algona, reported the theft of a cell phone;  officers aided Algona ambulance personnel;  there was a mental case;  there was a report of cars in a no parking area of Iowa State Bank driveup;  welfare check at 316 W. South Ave. --- all was O.K.

Although the population has not changed much between 1940 and 1999, other things of importance have changed in Algona.  Houses have locked garages, and many of the yards have fences.  There is a teen curfew, and there are problems with narcotics and felonies.  Parents drive children to organized events.  Those kids no longer own the town like the squirrels and birds own your back yard.  Lawyers lie in wait for someone to sue.

 

My Glimpse of Heaven

I didn’t realize it then, but I had my only glimpse of heaven while growing up in Algona, Swea City, and Seneca.  I got a glimpse of houses without window bars, locks, or fences.  There’s no accounting between friends.  All the houses have enormous front porches with pitchers of cool lemonade.  Noteworthy things you cannot find in heaven are television sets, exercise machines, accountants, tax collectors, politicians, and lawyers.

There’s never a medical quota on eggs, bacon, cream, and bread fresh baked in Clarion iron stoves.  The horses are thick-necked gentle giants leaning into leather hames.  The sun sets on endless rows of oats shocked for the harvest threshers.  On Sunday mornings the buggies are lined up in front of Blakjer Church.

In one of heaven’s small towns, there is a storefront bearing the sign “Gwen’s Gallery.”  Max Kahlen’s in his wood shop helping a child fix a bike tire.  Grandmother Dourte picks apples in the back orchard and bakes her pies every day.  The only difference now is that the stranger outside the unlatched screen door is clean-shaven and is invited inside to sit with the family at the big oak table.  When he departs, tears stream down his face.  He looks my grandmother straight in the eye and says, “Blessed are the Methodists.” 

 

Bob Jensen’s Obsession With the Internet

My friends and colleagues cannot understand my obsession with the Internet.  The reason I’m always online is quite simple.  There are very few fences on the Internet.  In its early years, the Internet is much like my early childhood.  Internet folks are good neighbors and willingly share what they know and think.  They even share their tools.  The main difference between the Internet and a small Iowa town in the 1940s is that the Internet’s outreach is global.  We may never see the faces of those with whom we share things online, but in many ways we become just as close or even closer than Max and me.  Television is banned in heaven, because it only networks in one direction.  The Internet is dominant because things travel in all directions.

Robert Frost’s neighbor had it all wrong.  Fences do not make good neighbors --- at least not in heaven.

 

***************************************************************************************

Special Update

 

On August 9, 2000 I received a telephone call from Gwen.  She talked about old times for over an hour.  Someone in Algona forwarded my short story to her.  Gwen, unlike me, has a photographic memory.  It turns out that I got some things wrong.  One thing was that it was actually her mother that discovered Max hanging from a rope.  I was not aware that her mother and Max were related.  Because they were related, many of his possessions passed on the Egel family.  Gwen still has his antique radio, his books, his coin collection, his cribbage board, his tobacco stained playing cards, and many other mementos from his house.  After Max was buried, the Egel family jacked up his old house and added a basement and plumbing.

 

One thing I discovered about Gwen is that she can do what seems impossible.  After leaving Algona, she eventually got married, had three children, and lived where she still resides in the vicinity of Kansas City.  She is now a widow and lives near her loving children. 

 

This is what seems impossible.  I guess that photographic memory was put to good use in academia.  When fulfilling her roles as a wife and mother, she obtained her bachelors degree in Kansas and then commenced commuting from Kansas to the University of Iowa.  She eventually earned three doctorates, one of which is an M.D. degree.  She than obtained credentials to be a psychiatrist and has practiced medicine for years near her home in Kansas. 

 

Gwen is about to retire her post on the International Olympic Committee.  She was, and at this moment still is, responsible for much of the drug testing of athletes.  She and her husband were active leaders in scouting for over forty years.  She travels worldwide in volunteer work, including helping victims of the bombing in Oklahoma City.  She can best be described a still “fat” (her word), tough minded, fiercely independent, tender of heart, and strong as an ox.  She walks six miles every day and dares me to try once again to rub raw pumpkin in her face if and when we ever meet face-to-face in the future.  I wouldn’t dare!

 


Update on January 10, 2008

 

Update on January 10, 2008

 

We're having a January thaw even up here in the mountains. It's warmer and lasting longer than most such thaws in January. With the price of heating oil and propane these days I don't hear many complaints about our unexpected balmy weather. It's a good thing too because my new snow blower is kaput. The drive wheels won't engage, and the auger won't disengage. But the worst problem is that the cables that turn the snow chute freeze up whenever the temperature falls below freezing. With tongue in cheek, the Sears repairman tells me that Craftsman engineers designed this $1,400 snow thrower for summertime use only.

I'm now thinking of ways to turn my new snow thrower into a mailbox holder down at the road. My cousin Don Jenson near Armstrong, Iowa has a rusty old plow holding up his mailbox. I'm going to one up him by having a shiny red Craftsman snow thrower holding up my mailbox since it was never designed to throw snow in the winter season. You can see even more clever mailbox holders at http://www.wallstreetfighter.com/2008/01/worlds-most-redneck-mailboxes.html
There are also some in the Redneck Photo Collection --- http://www.weeville.com/redneck_collection.htm

On January 5 a close friend from our church, Bob Every, asked if I would like to ride with him for lunch and to visit a train caboose that his son is having fitted with living quarters in Lancaster, New Hampshire (his son David travels around the world an engineer for the Merchant Marines and only returns home for infrequent visits). Bob Every and his wife Pat own quite a few rental properties in New England, including a nearby barn. The barn is somewhat unique because it has  "five-holer" outhouse attached to the barn. There are two holes for adults and three holes for children.

I concluded that a family that goes together probably stays together through thick and thin. It's got to be nicer in some ways when the kids grow up and leave the nest. Think of all the extra space freed up in the bathroom.

I can recall the "two-holer" on our Seneca family farm near Fenton, Iowa. I remember how cold it could get in this unheated "necessary." What I recall even more is that there was no toilet paper. Instead we used pages torn from Sears and Roebuck catalogs. I mean I'm serious about this. As a kid I secretly tore out the women's underwear pages and hid them in the hay loft of the barn. Those pages were too precious to become toilet paper. I'm serious about this as well.

My dad's uncle, Martin (Cornelius Martin (CM) Thompson (1866-1938)), had a big and beautiful two story house on the Evergreen Farm about a mile from our farm. What was unique is that in the early 1900s this house was ordered via a catalog and shipped by rail from Sears and Roebuck. It was one of the early versions of a prefabricated house. What amazed me is the size of the house shipped in pieces by train and then hauled out to the farm by horses and wagons. Uncle Martin's assembled house was much larger and nicer than most any prefabricated home you can buy today. It was even nicer than the smaller model shown at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sears_Catalog_Home
Like so many Iowa farm houses in this era of giant machinery and larger farms, Uncle Martin's house and buildings have all disappeared from the land.

Although later versions of these Sears and Roebuck houses had indoor plumbing, I don't recall indoor plumbing in Uncle Martin's fine house. Incidentally, his wife had an unusual name of Olava. Their farm had a wonderful orchard that included walnut trees. My dad always said Uncle Martin worked Aunt Olava to and early death. Nor did his widowed mother Gurie have it easy living on Martin's place. In those days, farm women really did have it rough, especially if they had to work in the fields and milk cows as well as cook three meals a day for the entire family on an iron cookstove that burned corn cobs. The women did all the washing, ironing, gardening, cleaning, canning, mending, and child rearing without plumbing, refrigerators, washing machines, or furnaces. They bore their children at home in bed. Aunt Olava had eight children. They killed and cleaned chickens almost daily even though their children generally picked the eggs. They made their own dresses out of colorful feed sacks, spun wool, and knitted warm mittens for their children and grandchildren. How were there enough hours in the day for their seemingly endless chores?

One day my Uncle Martin Thompson hitched up a team of horses to a buckboard and set out, with his friend Helge, for an old cemetery in Swea Township. He up and decided to dig is father's bones out of the ground. Knud was the husband married to Gurrie before they emigrated to from Norway to Iowa. While wearing his heavy Norwegian wool clothing, Knud died of heat stroke on a haystack in less than a month after arriving in Iowa. At the gravesite he and Helge shoveled down until they found those bones inside rotted canvas. One-by-one Martin tossed each bone into the buckboard and hauled what was left of Knud back to his Fenton farm as if to show Knud the wonderful new farmhouse. I think Knud was then buried in the orchard, but I'm not entirely sure about that family rumor. Knud most likely was reburied once again in the cemetery on the corner of our home farm. My dad's father (Julius Jensen) and his wife (Regina) gave a corner of their land to construct the Blakjar Norwegian Church and Cemetery. This Christmas I sent some money to the family to help restore some of the Jensen/Jenson graves.

The Blakjar Church, after sitting vacant for several decades on our farm, was moved in 2002 to a town park in nearby Lone Rock, Iowa. The Blakjar Cemetery still remains next to the corn fields on our former family farm. I think the two-holer is long gone as well as the church and most of the farm buildings.

 

My story about growing up in northern Iowa --- http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/max01.htm

My father's recollections about taking his mother Regina (Jennie or Ginny), Aunt Olava, and their cousin Anna Wilberg up to Viking, Alberta in a Model T can be found at http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/vernon.htm

Serious Thoughts of the Week
When the kids are home from school, like on a snow day, a lot of concern goes into "how to entertain the kids." If and when our many chores were completed when I was a kid, I don't think parents gave much thought to "how to entertain the kids." We were expected to entertain ourselves. I think this is an important part of making kids more creative and independent. This is why I've never been a fan of Little League organized events, television for kids, and frequent movies for kids. For us movies were an infrequent treat. Mostly we thought up things to do in playtime just like retired folks do in later life. That's the best way! And computer networking is not necessarily helping in modern times.

The World Wide Web is becoming one vast, programmable machine . . .  Most people are already there. Young people in particular spend way more time using so-called cloud apps — MySpace, Flickr, Gmail — than running old-fashioned programs on their hard drives. What's amazing is that this shift from private to public software has happened without us even noticing it . . . Computers are technologies of liberation, but they're also technologies of control. It's great that everyone is empowered to write blogs, upload videos to YouTube, and promote themselves on Facebook. But as systems become more centralized — as personal data becomes more exposed and data-mining software grows in sophistication — the interests of control will gain the upper hand. If you're looking to monitor and manipulate people, you couldn't design a better machine.
Nicholas Carr in an interview with Spencer Reiss, "The Terrifying Future of Computing," Wired Magazine, December 20, 2007 ---
http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/16-01/st_qa

Facebook has 58 million active users (including non-collegiate members) worldwide --- unbelievable!

Growing Up Online: Young People and Digital Technologies, by Sandra Weber and Shanly Dixon (Palgrave Macmillan; 2007, 272 pages,
ISBN-13: 9781403978141, 2007)
Writings that focus on the use of computer games, the Internet, and other digital technologies by girls and young women. How times have changed since when people had to help with the endless chores of farm life years ago.

What is happening to the quality of our students?

A meta-analysis of multiple studies which revealed that schoolchildren in the 1980s (i.e. our recent and current students) reported more anxiety than child psychiatric patients did in the 1950s. Thus, our students may find life to be far more anxiety-provoking/stressful than we did as undergraduates.

Adding to this finding is the one described below that indicates stress impairs the ability to remember and learn. Taken together, these studies suggest that significantly higher levels of anxiety/stress among the current generation of college students may help to account for the “decline” in the quality of academic performance that we lament. Perhaps most of our students are doing the best they can given their life experience just as we did the best we could given our life experience.

Richard Reams, Ph.D. 
Staff Psychologist Counseling & Career Services 
Trinity University
, One Trinity Place, San Antonio, TX 78212

Bob Jensen's threads on the dark side of technology are at http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/theworry.htm

 

 

 

Bob Jensen’s homepage is at http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/

 

This story is posted at http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/max01.htm

 

Recollections of the Outhouse --- http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/tidbits/2008/tidbits080110.htm

 

You can read more about draft horses and my Grandfather Dourte at http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/tidbits/2008/tidbits080118.htm

 

You can read about my father’s recollections of a 1925 trip to Alberta in a Model T at http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/vernon.htm