“We’re from Ioway…Ioway!
State of all the land…
Joy on every hand…
We’re from Ioway…Ioway!
That’s where the tall corn grows!”
Yep, I was an Iowa boy. I sang that stupid song with pride, though we never once called our home State “Ioway” outside of that song. I have driven a tractor, made money for pulling buttonweeds out of soybean fields with my own two hands, watched the wind ripple the leaves in the cornfields like waves on bright green ocean water, and hid in the basement when we believed a tornado might come and destroy our house. Life in Iowa is made up of these things and many more, don’t ya know.
And of course, I learned to tell corny jokes along the way. That’s a must for a quick-wit-hick from the sticks. Pepsi and Coke and Mountain Dew are “pop”, and when you have to “run down to the store” you get in your car. You don’t have to do it by foot. And other Iowans know this. You don’t even get the raised eyebrows and funny stares that those things evoke when said aloud in Carrollton, Texas. You have to explain to Texans that “you guys” is how Iowegian speakers say “y’all”. Language is plain and simple when you speak Iowegian. You have to follow the rule of “Only speak when you’re spoken to”. Iowans are suspicious when somebody talks first, especially if you haven’t known that somebody for their entire life. That’s what an Iowan calls a “stranger” . “Frank is from Iowa Falls, and he’s only lived here for twelve years, so he’s still a stranger around here.” So large portions of Iowegian conversations are made up of grunts and nods. Two Iowegians can talk for hours saying only like ten words the entire time. “Yep. You bet.”
But that only applies when you are outside the confines of the local cafe or restaurant or beanery or eatery or other nesting places for the Iowegian gossiping hens and strutting roosters. Inside these wordy-walled exchanges for farm lore and lies there is no end to to the talking. And because the mouths are already in motion anyway, there is also no end to the eating. You are not too likely to see skinny farmers. But farms and farmers definitely affect the quality of conversations. In Iowa you have to learn how to stuff good grub in your pie hole in spite of the fact that farmers have decided to compare in detail the aromas associated with putting cow poop in the manure spreader (back in the day, of course) and mucking out a layer of toxic chicken whitewash from the chicken coop. Perfect topic to accompany that piece of lemon meringue pie (which is the perfect color to illustrate the chicken side of the argument). And, of course, if you have a family of health-care and service professionals like mine (mother was a registered nurse for forty years), you get to add to that discussions of perforated gall bladders, kidney resections, and mean old biddies that have to be helped on and off the bedpans. You must develop a strong tolerance and an even stronger stomach, or you are doomed to be skinny and underfed.
And since Iowegian is a language that is very simple, direct, and mostly about poop, they practically all voted for Trump. Like him they never use transitions more than starting sentences with “And” or “But”, so they understand him mostly, even though there is no chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that he understands them. It’s what allowed them to elect a mouth-breathing troglodyte like Steve King to the House of Representatives, and I can say that because they have no idea what “troglodyte” means, and will probably think it is a complement because it has so many syllables. Insults have four letters. Politics in Iowa is simple and direct too. Basically, if you are not a Republican you are wrong. Of course, somehow the State managed to go for Obama over Romney, but that was probably because, to an Iowan, neither one was right, and Mormons are wrong-er than anybody.
So there’s my brief and beautiful bouquet of Iowegian words and their explanatory weegification. I know there is a lot more to say about how Iowegians talk. But I can’t say it here because my short Iowegian attention span is already wandering. So let me wrap it up with one final weegification (yes, that is a made-up word, not a one-time typo mistake).
Another Brick in the Wall
I sincerely hope I never appeared in any way to be like the teacher in the video of Pink Floyd’s rock opera The Wall. That teacher represents everything wrong about education and everything that looms over us as a coming darkness if the conservative privatization movement continues to move forward with their evil sausage-factory plans.
In the video you see the teacher making fun of a student for writing poetry instead of participating in the rote recitation about math that the class is engaged in. The school is portrayed as a factory that puts masks on the students, makes them march in a line, and eventually pitch forward, face first into the sausage grinder.
The song was written by Pink Floyd’s bassist, Roger Waters. It was written in the long ago 70’s as a protest against rigid education systems in general, and British boarding schools in particular. But old problems can come back to haunt us.
Here’s the evil being protested. Schools should never be used to suppress creative thinking and enforce conformity. While it is true corporate America is hot for education that treats educating students like baking bricks, with attention to precise shapes and uniform size and color, that is not how kids learn. They have to be treasured for what they are, unique individuals, no two alike, and all possessed of varied strengths, skills, and talents. The idea of education is to help them add to what they are born with, use what they are born with, and fit into the jigsaw puzzle of working with and getting along with others. We cannot teach them by pressing them into molds with standardized high-stakes tests, or taking their individual faces away by always trudging through the same low level thinking skills year after year just because a textbook written in conservative Texas says so. Learning in the classroom needs to be through guided discussions, activities, and interactions. Not through filling in all the blanks on a worksheet.
My own children, for the most part, have been cheated by the public education system in Texas. They are bright kids, but have humongous school troubles stalking them like monsters, boredom, disengagement, and feeling like the young poet betrayed by the teacher in the video. While I always, in my teaching, fought to creatively present learning opportunities, I found good teaching to be a rare thing in Texas. It was sometimes actively discouraged. And it is getting rarer. The people who think teaching English means diagramming sentences and circling the adverbs are winning the battle for young minds. I am left at a point of futility where the only thing I can do about the brick-making is write rants like this one about it.
Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos should be pleased with themselves. The sausage factories in our schools are turning out sausages. Sausages don’t think for themselves. Sausages are easy to control. And when the time comes, some corporate fat cat will eat them and become fatter (hopefully only in the metaphorical sense). And I am guessing here, but I’ll bet sausages make up most of the Republican voting public.
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