Roger Marolt: Our incredible schools — inside and out

Roger Marolt
Roger That

Did our ancestors leave the world a better place for us? It is a question that the high school French teacher asked us at last week’s parents’ back to school night.

Discussing this was a different way to spend the allotted 20 minutes that is normally used for teachers to describe their classes to parents and go over syllabi to help us understand what our kids will be doing all semester. We already knew they go to his class to learn French, so what more could he tell us?

Instead, he asked us to take a stand and state our cases. At first nobody went to the side of the room for those who believe the world is not better because our ancestors got to it first. I was thinking hopefully, like humans learn from history and correct or at least avoided repeating big mistakes from the past. For example, we have iPhones and the internet and can know more in an instant than our ancestors did in a lifetime. With the progression of technological advancement the world has to be continually getting better.

Then I started thinking, which was the point of the exercise. Knowing what we do about how mankind has annihilated, mutilated, enslaved, fought, tortured and stolen from itself, we should be kinder than we are.

Considering how much more comfortable, healthy, educated, well-fed, world-traveled, and generally pampered we are compared to almost everyone in history, we should be more content than we are.

I got up and walked to the other side of the room. I was joined by one mother who I think enjoyed arguing, too.

Why isn’t the world a better place now than it was a few annual growth rings in the family tree ago?

I am a God fearing Christian and full of hope and I didn’t want to speak badly about this wonderful gift of life I have been given, but despite my inclination not to be a complainer about things of significance, I blurted out, “I think there is more stress in the average person’s life than at any time in history.”

I admitted that I have no way of knowing this for sure, but explained that I was relying on a hunch.

Another confession is that I am probably a rare individual who, when getting into a good debate, tunes out the other side’s arguments as I gather my thoughts for a rebuttal to their points that I didn’t listen to. Accordingly, I cannot recount to you what they said in favor of the actions of those who came before us.

Yet, I replied, “The road to ruin is straightening out and getting wider. We have inhabited the world for over 6 million years in this intelligent form, basically starting out throwing rocks at each other to settle differences, yet in just the past 150 years through the use of guns and cannons, airplanes and rockets and advanced weaponry of all kinds we have killed millions through civil wars, slavery, genocidal ethnic cleansing, two world-encompassing conflicts, a couple of atomic bombs and chintzy politicking. It’s destruction in full-on escalation and who knows what’s coming next; most likely a hack into the planet’s financial systems leaving us all without money and no way to buy milk and bread much less produce and get it to market.”

I was going to talk about all the choices we “enjoy” nowadays in purchasing everything from apples to Apples. All the opportunities ahead of us! All the ambition that we have been made aware is important to becoming a winner. It has been repeated so often as to have become truth in our minds that we, yes we, as in you and I, can become anything, that is absolutely anything we want to be, if we are only willing to work and sacrifice for it! You show me the person who can bear the load from that kind of pressure and I will show you a poet surviving on an average poet’s wage, without augmentation from a trust fund, living anonymously in the middle of someplace that tourists never visit.

But, time ran out and the discussion ended before it could warm to steam. Our next session was a meeting about our schools’ experiential education trips that the kids will be on next week. I felt some relief. At least we have given our children this — an education along with, but wholly outside the books. It is different points to observe from, an unusual opportunity to touch something formerly abstract that becomes real under the exploration of eyeballs and fingertips. Maybe, just maybe, it’s things like this that will cause my children to think better of me for wholeheartedly supporting.

Roger Marolt thinks our school system is much better today than it was 50 years ago when the Outdoor Education (ODE) program was hatched. Email at