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October 23rd, 2004

a place where children matter

Pasadena, California, home of the Rose Bowl, sits in the San Gabriel Valley, just up the narrow and ancient Pasadena Freeway from Los Angeles. Midwesterners settled Pasadena and South Pasadena, and built lovely craftsman homes. Unlike much of the Los Angeles County "southland", Pasadena centers around a "real downtown", where people live and work and seek out entertainment. It's a diverse city with a traditional past, a kind of oasis from suburbia, or perhaps, at its best, suburbia as it ought to be. It's not utopia, as it has social issues and crime issues and people living in poverty. But it's a workable, good city.

Pacific Oaks College has its headquarters in Pasadena. This school, which caters to upper level undergraduates and to graduate students, aspires to a simple but important mission. Pacific Oaks College is all about the kids. It trains early childhood specialists, teachers, counselors, and other professionals who work with children. It sees its mission as being a place to seek out wisdom about child care.

Nobody frequents internet message boards, wondering how to get rich through attending Pacific Oaks. Pacific Oaks grads don't tend to get elected to public office, or audition to run major corporations, or set the world on fire as novelists and poets. Pacific Oaks is all about the kids.

It's not an easy time to be a kid. The number of kids growing up in poverty, and the number of kids who are uninsured both remain quite high. United States infant mortality remains too high for a westernized country. Child neglect and abuse, perrenial problems, remain insufficiently checked by modernity.

I like that Pacific Oaks College finds its mission in turning out grads who want to help. To me, the way we treat our children does not do us credit as a society. I like that some schools set out to turn out people who want to simply do good things to help. I appreciate the structural things, and I fancy myself a conceptual person. But I also appreciate the folks who want to get the training, roll up their sleeves, and just do. Pacific Oaks College generates folks who do childrens' matters, and do them right.

I feel a little more comfortable, driving down the road on a rainy afternoon, or lying in bed looking at the ceiling, knowing that some places people sit in study circles and wonder how to make life better for kids. I think, sometimes, that kids are what matters.

I read an internet message board by an earnest soul who did the "we work too much in this country--why not have more time for fun?". This resonates a bit for me. But sometimes I think "there's so much to do, and not enough people doing it". It's not the leisure that saves us--it's the work that sets us free.

road trip

Today my friend Gene and I head off into the Wichita Mountains, in southwestern Oklahoma (unless, as sometimes happens, we detour to another locale). My wife, being in the first month of a new job, prefers to stay at home and rest. Gene and I will go hiking, see the sights, and try to spot wildlife. Our route takes us towards the panhandle, a stark, high plains area, but just as the terrain gets rough, we'll turn north into jagged small mountains. It's a wild, bison and eagle kind of country, a sharp contrast to the fields and transition zone in which we live. My wife and I wanted to take this trip on Labor Day, but got sidetracked. Now I'm looking forward to hitting the road for a brief trip.