Anaconda Plan

Last night Drew and I were doing history homework – specifically reading about the courageous civil war generals.  We had to read a paragraph on Lee, Lincoln, Grant, Sherman and Davis that outlined monumental moments.  Then, we had to ask ourselves what three questions did we have while (yes, while) we read the paragraph.  Drew simply wrote, “What will I have for dinner?”   Now, this may be the truth – his stomach was controlling his brain.   However, I told him that he had to think along the lines of the context that he was reading.  And it was only then the homework assignment got even more interesting….

He wrote, “Which general liked the Anaconda Plan?”  Then I said, “the Anaconda Plan was not mentioned in the article.”  He went on to say that he knew that- and that’s why he asked the question…. he wondered how the AP – all went down.  I clearly had no clue on what an Anaconda Plan was and then I thought he was tricking me, and leading me down a dreamt up comic episode of a semi-aquatic snake surrounding Manhattan.  The puzzled look on my face was apparent – and so was his inpatient face.  He then yelled, “School is stupid, and this is a good example of why I don’t need to go.  You don’t even remember what you learned, Mom.  What’s the sense of learning about all this stuff that happened google years ago.  It’s all bad anyways ….war, slavery….

And then it was as clear as the noonday sun – what he was learning from parts of  history was his first taste that people fail.  People hurt one another.  Sometimes, people’s actions do not match their Sunday kinda love.  Where good character wasn’t in line with head, heart and hand.  All that from his 5th-grade-I-don’t-like-school perspective created an attitude that school is a waste of time since he just couldn’t make sense of the paradox.

He listened on my views behind the wrongful intentions of those that owned slaves, those who promote war or communism.  We discussed this all in the backdrop of the AIDS Day special that was broadcasting on TV, where U2’s (minus Bono) charity RED was performing, “it’s a beautiful day.”   We gave a listen to former President Clinton as he explained that more patients received life saving drugs this year, then being diagnosed with AIDS.  That our collective caring for the people who have this disease is making a difference.

This morning I woke up to an email from Addison’s middle school outlining steps to be part of a Text book review committee for our county public school system.  I thought about Drew’s history book and what unearthed from our anaconda discussion.  I thought  of how we shouldn’t be so caught up in text review but more aware of how we can use the text to springboard discussions with our children about character.   I know that my son’s character doesn’t magically mold into being a good citizen nor does it entirely come from how our family lives.  Every year, his moral thinking and reasoning matures and like the arts and academics, it needs to be learned and cultivated.

Ironically, I also received an email about a program that’s implemented via the school system to develop moral and performance character.  I wonder if adding a few pauses throughout the school day to discuss deeper intention behind the learning.   Discussing personal intentions throughout history?  Logic behind math concepts?   Pausing long enough to develop excellence and ethics.

I’m going to attached an interesting article here by Professor Tom Lickona.   His quote was an “aha” moment for me:

“Attention to performance character gives achievement a moral purpose – we develop our talents in order to contribute to society.”

This sounded familiar and comforting to me… fully develop your God-given gift, and share it with your neighbor.   How each person added to the success of the RED charity.

The success of the Anaconda Plan, the strategy for subduing the seceding states in the American Civil War, is debatable.

The success of our society will be measured by our children.  No debate about that.