When the Hippie Understood the Yankee

“Home is where your rump rests.” -Pumbaa (The Lion King)

Born and raised in the Midwest, it is obvious to identify the differences between the way I was brought up in comparison to my nieces, born and raised in Texas. On a recent trip South, which was unplanned and unexpected, the differences were brought forth in a light that was almost blinding. Those ‘Southern Bells’ have nothing on good ol’ ‘Minnesota Nice.’

My brother, twelve years older than I, has lived in Texas for 15 years now with his wife and two adopted children. Walking out the front door of their house is similar to walking through the campground your family travels to every year for a weekend, but this campground happens to be year round. To the left we have five trailers which contains two cousins, a brother, mom and dad, and don’t forget great aunt Gigi! To the right is more trailers with another set of cousins and their parents. There is more family within their quarter mile than our sixty mile radius.  By the end of day 4, I was ready to transfer my brothers home into another town. You can’t even wake up without someone being over at the house or have any time that is quiet without someone knocking on the door. Sometimes it is just for a quick hello and other times it is to express pure boredom and the need to do something other than just sit. Their families are very close and supportive which is something that isn’t as prominent in the Midwest, but I kind of like it that way. 

When driving into a southern state, it is expected that everthing is going to be deep fried, put on the BBQ, or be a processed pile of food. Even though I have been to Texas more times than I can count, my personal strive to become a healthier and more conscious individual was quickly haulted. After this trip, my body feels deprived of the nutrients needed to function throughout the day. It started on the drive down in Oklahoma. We stopped at a gas station just outside of OKC and I was craving some yogurt, fruit, or something light yet filling. I found a banana for $3. No thanks. Yogurt? Try $4.50 for a small container. Next. I could have gotten fried chicken and french fries for $3.99. Yep! Thats right, deep fried food for less than yogurt by only a dollar more than the banana. As we got into Texas, it got worse and the amount of food that I ate was close to anorexia. After getting car sick and ejecting the small amount of food I had, I was ready to get to my brothers family campground and sleep it off for the night. Throughout the next few days, I was offered fried this and fried that. I politely declined and chose a salad over a deep fried who knows what. The point isn’t the deep fried food. I eat chicken tenders and fried pickels in Minnesota all of the time. The point is the amount that is consumed and the lack of nutritional education that is provided to these people. My nieces, 13 and 10, drink at least 4 cans of pop daily. That is minimal to the amount that my sister-in-law drinks as well as my brother. When did it become okay for growing children to consume that amount of sodium, calories, and lets not even talk about the sugar. Dinners consist of ramen noodles and pre-made salads that have rock hard cheese chunks and slimey pieces of turkey. It is obvious to see why my extended family in this state is over weight with high blood pressure and cholestrol higher than Mount Everest. I keep thinking about my niece’s health and safety in a state that does not support a healthy living style. 

The Midwest is very fortunate to have the resources and the innovation that is sparking the future. I cannot remember the last time I used a styrofoam plate to eat off of, let alone heat something up in the microwave. Well, I can officially say I have contributed to 5 plates going into a Texas landfill that will never decompose and will create toxins in our earth. Sorry Mother Earth, I had no choice. I expressed my disgust towards these plates and my brother quickly glared and told me to deal with it. Nope. That’s not going to happen. When is it okay to use something that if burned will create greenhouse gases and if burried will create toxins as well as take hundreds of years to decompose? It’s not okay. We are taught in the Midwest to love the Earth and care for its future. We are taught in school to care for the environment, recycle, and never liter. Wildlife is meant to be wild and the Earth is our home. Just like our personal residence, we need to keep it clean, pick up the garbage, and always wash the dishes before they get smelly. It is very obvious that the southern states could care less about the environment and what our future looks like.

Thinking about schooling and being a future educator, the emphasis and the meaning behind education is skewed to the point of no return. In the Midwest, school is a priority and the education you recieve is just as important as the food that is put on our plate. There are various exceptions to that statement which is true to every other remark made beofre. But overal, when my student teaching fifth graders who are average achieving students are reading at a 6th grade level or higher, you’d think that the norm for a majority of schools thorughout the United States would be simlar. My fifth grade niece is reading at a third grade reading level and is in the highest level of reading in her class. Shocking, to say the least. Where are the educated teachers that are pushing these students to achieve higher? Where are the teachers that are striving for excellence and change? Why is someone who is below average concidered to be the most achieving student in the class? I always knew I did not agree with the ideas and purpose behind the Texas education system, but this past weekend solidified my suspicion. Here is something to think about, there is no U.S geography taught before 6th grade. Minnesota students are taugh this in fourth grade and have it mastered. North Dakota also fourth grade and the toddlers at the Montessori school I work at can name all of the five surrounding states. My nieces can’t identify any state other than Texas, Minnesota and California. How is this education system still going?

The Midwest has been home to be for 23 years and I have learned a lot about myself, nature, and the world around me. Every state is special and unique. Every state has their positive and negative aspects. Though I hold Minnesota near and dear to my heart, there are some state regulations and decisions that I disagree with, similar to every other person in the United States. The reason I worry about my nieces is because they know nothing more than what they are raised on. They do not understand the harm that 4 cans of pop can do to their body. They don’t understand that they are achieving below the national average in many educational subjects. I do. If I could bring them to Minneosta for one year of their education, they would understand. My brother would understand.