The horizontal plane…

…. or non-vertical mindset seems best to explain a fifteen year old grandson of a woman I knew for two years. A year ago I wrote out two worksheets for him at the start of lockdown, little things that are useful in ones knapsack of information carried about in ones noggin and fingers crossed would lead to discussion and pen and paper sessions. In other words something we could talk about. Primarily I wanted to get his brain working, to be better able to weigh up the world and to some of the pranksters and clowns within it, to gain insight. Not so with this kid, total and utter disinterest; he’s not a rough type, he’s not a sports type either, neither I’m guessing preoccupied with and involved with any group of friends, other than of course the pointless fluff of social media. Apparently he’s mostly in his room attached to the ‘dreaded device’ ie the smart phone and so what does his 36 yo auntie give to the boys younger sister as a Christmas gift, another bloody iphone! One cannot believe such circles of repeating idiocy, of such idolatry to the byte and its digital manifestation. The culture difference is too great for me, looks as if g/f dumped me, no phone calls being sent anymore to this house, seems I am cast out and all I think because I wanted to help the kids! To some strata of society ‘education’ is now akin to witchcraft! ha ha ha …. the gap apparently to them is too great to bridge, they wish their ignorance to continue.

Interestingly, the parents themselves exhibit nothing, no conversation or knowledge or activity other than he himself possesses at fifteen. This is interesting, his mind is telling him “Theres nothing more to know”. Question; is this a symptom of four generations of tv kids?

His nana describes his writing as atrocious and I’m assuming his sketching and manual page layout skills are equally bad, hence the worksheets and their ‘thought out and planned’ topics …. but theres lots of assuming here as I have found in the say four times we’ve met to be utterly unable to achieve anything like a sensible exchange of words, I’m attempting to have a conversation with a void. I do not look forward to his being there. Say three months ago I laid it down for him please look at the worksheets and do some of the work, however the result is zilch. Now if I’d been in that position I would have been delighted to encounter an older knowledgeable person full of ideas and vision happy to give of their time; but no, he does his damnedest to see merely in the paper thin horizontal plane of an extremely limited outlook. His parents are plodding stuck also in this very thin horizontal plane; no idea whatsoever it is his brain we need to be working with. A friend of mine remarked you cannot make a purse out of a sows ear, slightly off target analogy, but certainly essentially correct. My reading of the situation is that his now deceased of ten years grandfather that spent a lot of his life chasing big wages abroad with that money implanted a skewed vision of what life is and their place in the world. Not one but for a while both parents were abroad needlessy, that is not how to bring kids up. Perhaps that is why theres so little effort, no hunger to do better.

I was very lucky, a dad with technical books and hobby technical magazines of the late fifties and to mid sixties, encyclopedias specifically bought for me, a really good home workshop, an ever changing and productive vegetable garden etc etc. It was expected of me that I work, digging and planting as a man would but at age fourteen, at that age I was repairing and painting exterior windows frames up ladders, insulating the loft (cough cough) working again as if a man. I could mix and lay concrete, clear rough land, turn on the lathe, make components, follow instructions, solder, make things that went BANG, indeed I was lucky! I can accurately place these activities in time as it would all happen when living at the old house which we left in 1972, which would have been better for me if we had never left. I had thoughtful and intelligent grandparents too, particularly on my dads side that lived only a mile away and my dads unmarried sister was the only one that took the trouble to help a very slow reader. We in fact used the same readers / story books that she had used as a child in theearly1920’s and I have them here on the shelves. Everyone was in some way or other ‘improving themselves’ moving to do better, had standards. Life was more fearful then for most everyone, certainly the working class. This lot, hard to say, money comes in, feeds their consumerism, end of story. They themselves have cut their nose off, the encounters would be useful for us both, I fear for the youngest daughter of my g/f and her mental health, already too isolated for a woman in her thirties.

The worksheets were easy, with ideas, pictures, diagrams and maps he will never have seen before nor realised their interest. I underlined easily found search terms and included simple sketches, lots of distinct areas of interest drawn together to a compendium.

Heres a quick recall at subjects covered and introduced ever so painlessly …..

tricks with triangles,

simple surveying, calculating heights.

sketching (this used to be part of military officer training)

value of pi, frac and decimal.

the county geological map, types of rocks.

plankton, algae, diatoms, linking to climate change.

constellations in the sky and my three dimensional model of Orion on a two foot plank of wood.

what is a transistor, name the parts, a diode, what do they do.

how many transistors in a iphone, Moores Law.

make a one inch cube of paper with ruler, pencil and scissors n glue (accurate draughting, patience and dexterity).

what is an IC, a chip, a foundry, a wafer fab.

name and draw half a dozen electronic components.

what is a gate, what is a flip-flop.

….. goodness knows what else!

You see nothing difficult really, but unusual in being presented outside of a course of study where ideas and knowledge is presented often to my mind in far too rigid linear progression. That is the value and beauty of books is that we can flick forward and backward so easily, it helps open up the subjects to us and to excite our intellectual taste buds of what is around the corner. But no, it was a household of no learning, no desire to learn, no idea of the brevity of life, as if everything continues as is forever, life in aspic fuelled by a seemingly endless supply of money.

It is scandalous the experience and knowledge available from carefully written books is now seldom accessed if at all. I did buy him a copy of an excellent little electronics primer for junior readers that i too had at say age ten as published by Hamlyn in the late sixties, surely I thought this would draw him in but the stodge of disinterest and lack of curiosity was palpable and even though I handed them a few books this one i kept back, better it stays here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually throw books in the bin. I think also his total intellectual lethargy is a mirror of his own parents and remaining grandparent, they exhibit no advantage and learning in addition to what he himself now exhibits at an ill-educated fifteen. The boy will never hear bright talk neither in his own household or at nanas. As friend Ted explains, theres no expectation of him to do better or to expend effort.

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