Several years ago, my late husband and I ran a kids’ summer camp in the mountains of Eastern Oregon. The camp was an educational experiment initiated by local residents of the remote community, educated folks who loved the beauty of the area and made their livings there, but concerned that their children were affected by the isolation. They wanted their kids to know more about the world and what it offered.
People from around the country – and a few from other countries – came to teach at the camp, the Chief Joseph Summer Seminars. The idea was not to run a regular kind of school, but one where the adults taught things they did for a living and loved in one-hour or one-day or one-week courses. We invited artists, scientists, musicians, historians, professionals of all kinds who taught whatever might engage the students from third grade through high school.
Instructors were encouraged to collaborate with each other on interdisciplinary projects, and the synchronicity and serendipity during these three weeks was amazing.
Our “classrooms” were cleared spots under the pine trees, and we lived in rough Forest Service tents on property that had once been a dude ranch. The students came on buses every morning from their homes in the valley and left at three in the afternoon, after which the adults repaired with our own families to a private lake for swimming, beer and stimulating conversations before heading back to the big log mess hall for dinner and, later, a campfire and more conversation.
It was a great experience for all.
I’m telling you this because I was thinking about the seminars and the unique structure of CJSS this morning. In one of those “aha!” moments, CJSS and the current situation in D.C. clicked in my wee brain.
We had few rules for the kids who came: “No throwing pine cones” (you could put somebody’s eye out with one of those things!) and “no wandering off alone” were the two that mattered for the safety of the kids. But we also made it clear that if they found themselves in a class that bored them, they were free to leave the class and find something else to do with one of the instructors who was “floating.”
Perhaps more important, though, instructors were allowed to ask a disruptive or bored kid to go find something else to do. Anyone who’s ever taught anything at all knows about the trouble and chaos the disruptive, bored students can create.
The disruptive, bored ones at CJSS were not allowed to spoil it for the kids who were really interested. Giving the disruptive ones the option to walk away and, even better, giving the instructors the option to tell them to find something else to do meant that instructors ended up with kids who were really interested and could enjoy what the instructor had to offer – astronomy, the physics of nail-pounding, dance, you name it.
No kids bothering everybody else. No blame. No hard feelings.
It was when I remembered this that I started thinking about Donald Trump.
A troublemaking kid could stay with the group if he or she agreed to participate in whatever activity was going on and not be a smart-aleck or otherwise disturb the other kids – make the clay pot, learn about birds, help build the camera obscura, tie-dye a shirt, rehearse a play, whatever. But only if.
The structure worked brilliantly for the kids and adult instructors. And I propose it for the current administration in Washington, D.C.
Donald Trump is pretty clearly one of those bored, disruptive, attention-seeking kids who wants to turn every “class” into a chaotic circus. I propose that he be offered the chance to leave. No blame. No hard feelings.
I also propose that the rest of us be allowed to insist that he find something else to do – get back to his businesses, build a new golf course, put up another tower – and let our country get on with the work we need to do.
The man clearly has little interest in the job of President. He has little talent for it. He just wants to raise hell, be a Twitter smart-aleck and make things unpleasant for everybody else.
So, Mr. Trump, since you don’t really enjoy running the country and you keep throwing us into chaos, how about a nice hike in the woods with one grown-up or another? How about finding something that interests you and leaving the other kids alone? We’ll all be happier and better off.
And remember, Donald, no throwing pine cones. You really could hurt somebody with one of those things. It’s the CJSS way.