Tag Archives: Education

A Year Later: El Salvador, Oswego, and Saying Goodbye

10151940_10152274893111550_1680990572_nIt’s been a full year since my trip to El Salvador with SUNY Oswego. My negative feelings for the organizations involved and my alma matter have dissipated, I even started thinking about somehow starting a small fund for history students. I’m not rich, but I was even more broke as a student and would have loved a scholarship, even if it was only for books.

The people I met on the trip and I still connect every now and again, though mostly online. Around the anniversary, a few days ago, I was a little skittish. Whenever I heard a loud noise my heart would start to race. It’s gone away now for the most part, but I think every year at this time (for a while) I’ll be a little jumpy. Further, and perhaps most importantly, I better understand the situation we were in and why it happened. I cannot be mad at those individuals, which I won’t go into here. I realized right away that I had it pretty good because, in reality, I got to leave and no matter how many things were stolen from me, they had to stay.

What I’ve also been thinking about is my connection with SUNY Oswego. I miss it. I spent a lot of time there and made friends and connections that mean a lot to me. From personal to professional growth, it all happened on that campus. I miss being in class (mostly graduate school) and working with students on a daily basis during my graduate assistantship, though I do not miss the lack of pay.

This is all coming to me now because Leah and I are looking at an apartment in Syracuse tomorrow afternoon and as much as we want to move, it’ll be bitter sweet, but I think it’s for the best. The two of us will always have a place in our hearts for SUNY Oswego and the city. We know this place so well and are comfortable here. There aren’t any surprises. We know what to expect no matter where we go. We have a bar, a couple favorite places to eat, and a nice apartment. Unfortunately, tomorrow could be the beginning of the end for our time living there.

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Being responsible for your emotions: A rant

We’ve all heard the saying, “Control your own happiness,” but what about other emotions? Sadness, regret, and anger are all things we humans experience on a somewhat regular basis. Why should we let other people have such a huge influence on the positive or negative aspects of our lives? I recently figured out a little bit about myself and started understanding why it is I do what I do.

I want to control my ALL of my emotions. If I’m going to be happy, I want to be the reason I’m happy. Whether it’s surrounding myself with family and loved ones, playing hockey or music, or just having a couple beers with some friends around a bar or a fire. I answer to no one when it comes to my happiness.

This goes the same for my occasional err…somewhat constant anger and aggressiveness. I choose to let it out when I want, which is probably healthier than keeping it in. Meh, what do I know, I’m not a doctor, nor is yelling at someone from my car for cutting me off going to change anything. Anyway, I want to be in control of those emotions, too. I’d rather get in trouble for something I did and be mad/embarrassed at myself than let someone else make me feel helpless and have anger towards them for something I can’t control.

I want to make my own messes and I want to clean them up.

I want to make my own mistakes and I want to own up to them.

 

I’ve been called abrasive, aggressive, angry, unorthodox, told that I worry too much and to slow down…yada. yada. yada. You know what? (Cue hardcore lyrics) “I’ll keep my failures. You keep waiting.” (Call It Fire) In other words, keep it to yourself. I’ll be over here learning something from what I just did.

I don’t mind being the guy who tells you what you don’t want to hear. I don’t mind being honest.

I do mind when people don’t do their jobs and I catch the raw end of it. I’d rather let them know and skip a few rings in the “chain of command” to make people aware of the problem than sit there and have no control and be miserable. Too many people sit idly by and let things happen to them. They get stepped on or skipped over all together. I want to learn from mistakes, because that’s what life is all about, right?

Sometimes bureaucracy is helpful, but most times it isn’t. For what my jobs have been and what I hope one day they will be, and that’s helping or educating others, we don’t have time for it. Face problems head on. Take ownership of the problems and mistakes made along the way. Then, move on. Put your pride away and learn something to help the people you’re supposedly in favor of.

The moral of this rant is, control your emotions. Not in the, “keep them in check” kind of way, but in the, “take them by the horns” kind of way. Be happy, be sad, be angry, cry, punch shit, be alone or with others, write a blog post about it, laugh SO loud, scream your face off – be emotional on your own terms.

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My first museum exhibit panel

I didn’t get paid to do it. I didn’t even receive academic credit. I did it because I love the idea of education outside of the classroom. This was a subject I was largely unfamiliar with, but was a lot of fun to put together from the research involved, to the writing, even the editing. Below I am posting the final copy of what he panel will have on it as far as my contributions. I haven’t yet heard when the panel will be created, though from what I understand it will take a while for the graphic designer to get some ideas together. In the mean time, I’m happy and proud of what I did and hope that this helps me in the future.

 

America is Challenged in the 1930’s

In the 1930s, a combination of environmental and man-made problems caused the United States to nearly spiral out of control. As the stock market crash of 1929 produced a financial meltdown, over-farming started to take its toll on the land and, along with population growth and drought, created what is known as the Dust Bowl in the Great Plains.

 By 1918, American troops were engaged in battle in World War I. As one of the few foods the United States could successfully ship to troops across the Atlantic Ocean, the government encouraged farmers to grow wheat under the slogan, “Wheat can win the war.”

 The United States Food Administration created “Wheat-less Wednesdays” to keep shipments flowing to Europe. The price of wheat rose and farmers plowed 11 million acres of virgin grasslands across the mid-west, twice the size of NJ. This time period is often referred to as the Great Plow Up.

 After World War I, Americans continued to move west. As the 1920s wore on, problems arose for farmers in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, and Southeast Colorado.

 Plowing removed large stretches of the previously undisturbed native grasses and, without grass, the soil became dry and exposed and was picked up by the wind, which created dust storms.

Along with over-farming, four distinct periods of increased drought: 1930–31, 1934, 1936, and 1939–40, made the land unable to recover. 

 By late 1935, an estimated 850 million tons of topsoil had blown away in dust storms. By 1940, close to 2.5 million people left the affected states and headed further west towards places like California. Though from various states, these travelers were collectively known as “Okies” after Oklahoma.

 Dust storms caused health issues for many people. Respiratory and eye infections were common and many wore masks made of gauze and cheesecloth to protect themselves. Windows and doors were sealed in order to keep dust out of homes. The most famous dust storm occurred on April 14th, 1935, known as “Black Sunday.” Shortly after, the term “Dust Bowl” would be used for the first time in a newspaper article.

 By the mid-1930s, the U.S. government was actively involved in trying to reverse and prevent these conditions. In April 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Soil and Conservation Act, giving farmers money to plant native grasses and vegetation to stop erosion.

 People learned to deal with dust storms in different ways. Jokes and story-telling helped take people’s mind away from their harsh surroundings and resilience and ingenuity were necessary survival skills.

 Along with the environmental disaster, an economic disaster was also underway. The 1929 stock market crash caused many Americans to lose their jobs. The price of goods plummeted and some farmers had little choice but to abandon their land.

 As unemployment rose from 3% in 1929 to 25% by 1933, President Roosevelt began creating social programs called the New Deal. Roosevelt’s vision started with the employment of artists. Artists promoted the program’s ideals and gained support. They also played an important role in documenting the effects of the Dust Bowl.

In 1936, funded by the U.S. Resettlement Administration, Pare Lorentz, produced a film on the Dust Bowl entitled, The Plow That Broke the Plains. The film was intended to educate the public on the need to reform farming practices and the delicacy of the land.   

 Meanwhile, still photographers, sponsored by the U.S. Farm Security Administration (FSA), traveled to the heart of the Dust Bowl and beyond, including Oswego County, documenting local citizens, locations and events during the period.

Without jobs, many Americans couldn’t afford to feed their families. Until 1932, local charities, mainly churches, were responsible for provisional food and financial assistance.

With the creation of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation (FSRC) in October, 1933, the government was able to purchase, store, and process surplus agricultural products to relieve the hardship and suffering caused by unemployment.

To receive surplus food, many individuals and families stood in line at food banks, which were sometimes miles away. In cities like Baltimore, Maryland, people were given a weekly allotment of 80¢ worth of products. Bread, sugar, and milk (when it was available) were distributed while supplies lasted.

In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was created. The CCC employed youths, between the ages of 18-24, to perform conservation work such as planting trees, digging new irrigation ditches, etc. Still valued today, the drought in the Great Plains gave the United States government a new perspective on conservation.

In the late 1930’s, weather patterns changed and brought rain to drought-affected areas. The U.S. economy finally began to recover in late 1941 as the country entered into World War II. 

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Why I love history:

“There’s nothing wrong with history, but simply being old doesn’t make you historic.” – Dave Lozo

Though Dave Lozo was talking about the NHL and the constant use of the “Original Six” when hockey analysts talk about Chicago, Boston, New York, Montreal, Toronto, and Detroit, Mr. Lozo’s quote really struck a chord with me. It made me really think about history and what makes something or someone historic.

For me, it depends on who you ask. The meaning something has to one person may not exist, or exists differently, for someone else. There are many different parts of the past that I find interesting, and more so if I get the opportunity to interact with people who lived through it. To me, that makes the person I’m interviewing historic.

For example, today at Safe Haven Museum and Education Center, where I am currently working, I told Lois, an 85 year old Experienced Works employee, I was working on a Dust Bowl Panel for an exhibit on SUNY Oswego’s campus. She told me that she was a little girl during that time period, so, I started talking to her about it and asking questions. The fact that she remembered and could tell me what she went through, how it felt, the things that were going on gave her a historic quality. It’s not because she lived through it, but because she had the information to pass on to me, teaching me about history.

An African proverb helps in better understanding what I mean, “When an old man dies, it’s like a library burning to the ground.” All of that information is lost, unless passed on to someone who connects with it.

Lois and I ended our conversation, and she walked away into another room. A few minutes later, she reappeared and handed me these.

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I was amazed. I’ve been in close contact with quite a bit original materials from the 19th and early 20th century, but for some reason these made me appreciate the opportunity I had all over again. I’m sure people hold these things every day, but to me, it was special.

Lois didn’t seem to think they were all that great and even said that she had ones from the 1930s that I could have. I was shocked. To me, being able to interact and begin to understand history on a personal level is what makes it all worth while; it makes it something worth knowing; it becomes a part of you even if you weren’t there to experience it.

That’s why I love history. It let’s me outlive my own life by hundreds of years, through different people’s perspectives.

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Sempre Imparare. Always Learning.

I’ve met a lot of different people in my close to 23 years on this earth, but I’m beginning to understand more about myself through simplifying my life; by breaking down these structures I built up in my head for so many years that I thought meant happiness, especially in my daily life.

Many of the people I encounter on a daily basis tell me what they’re background is in, “Well, my background is business administration,” “Mine is in marketing and graphic design.” For the last few years my goal was to be a historian, whatever that means. I wanted all the credentials I’d ever need. The solid Master’s GPA. Internships. Jobs. The whole nine. What I’m realizing is, you need more than this narrow track to become what you want.

I don’t want to focus my present on the few things in my past that make me a  “historian.”I want to have a broad background that allows me to gain skills in every aspect of my life, professional and otherwise. My resume is full of jobs, internships, fellowships, assistant-ships, all of which tell the story of how I became who I am and who I want to be.

Umm, what do I want to be?

I want to be an educator, teaching people parts of history they’re interested in and how to use it in their daily life in a setting that is comfortable. A museum is the perfect place. They show up willingly, they ask questions, I either answer the question or we find the answer together. Conversation sparks the flow of information. We learn together. No one is smarter than anyone.

I listen to the aforementioned people speak and think, “Is this their whole life?” “Is this all they have that they’re proud of?” If it’s not, it sure as hell seems like it is.

I want my life to be integrated. I can’t separate all the different aspects of my life and be a different person everywhere I go. I want a seamless, border-less life that allows me to learn everywhere I go, with every person I speak to, and with every experience I have.

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