Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter

I was reading in my daily scribe, which isn’t much of a daily scribe anymore with the takeovers by Wall Street investment groups and profit speculators and the sell-offs and the layoffs, about what makes Harry Potter a success. It seems there is a formula for the hero that the series follows that has proven effective. I didn’t read it closely, but I was struck by the observation that Harry was orphaned and raised in a school without parents – apparently a common theme for the protagonist of successful tales.

I hate when I have these ideas about family values that make me think the adage about being a liberal when you are twenty and having a soul, while being a conservative when your 40 and having a brain seem true, because I still identify as a liberal. I am not talking about family values though. I am an independent person who is not particularly close to my parents. I appreciate my parents for their role in raising me and bringing me into the world. I just wonder if there is something deeply and inherently wrong with our culture and if there is, since I am a part of this culture, then I can discover it by looking deeply at myself.

My Grandfather left the small town and moved to California during the depression. His family stayed home on the farm. He was part of the first major exodus from small towns to urban areas. Eventually, he returned to the community, but not as a farmer. He ran a small grocery store. My father left the small town and raised our family in the suburbs of Minneapolis. He was part of the last exodus that doomed small towns for good. But, as a child, I made many trips to visit my grandparents grocery store in the small town. It was a four hour drive and I have many cherished memories of time spent with my grandparents and small town living in an agricultural community – albeit a dying one at that. These trips required a 4 hour drive one-way, but still we made frequent weekend drives.

I live less than 30 minutes from my parent’s townhome. My son visits my mother and father about 3-4 times a year at their home. This is much less than I spent with my grandparents. His other grandparents operate the beautiful hay and alfalfa farm near us as well. My son cannot get enough of spending time with my father-in-law and his tractors.

Part of the appeal is the land, I am sure. But, I wonder how long this will last. Eventually, the farm will be associated with work for my son and without a love for work and the time spent with loved ones working together this love for the farm will dissipate as it has over and over again amongst rural families.

My friend is a sixth-grade teacher and he tells me that he tells his students on the first day of class every year that he is going to be spending more time with them than their parents. Public schools have taken over the role of raising our children. Who needs parents anymore? Public schools in rural communities educate the children to be productive members of our economy. This has nothing to do with preserving the community these schools are in. Graduates like my father left the community to work in the cities rather than toil away on the farms in the area.

Myths like Harry Potter only add to this message that parents and families are not needed for the development and maturation of our children. All we need to do is send them to school. I have recently come to believe that sustainable economies can only be found in small rural communities where wealth is produced from taking care of the land and community and not by speculative ventures where profits are made through buying and selling commodities. This wealth has not been appreciated in our present economy, but it will eventually be necessary to return to our rural roots if we wish to live in harmony with our environment and in a sustainable manner.

For this to happen we are going to need new ways of educating our youth and alternatives to Harry Potter for myths to raise our children on.