Readers may be tiring of my life on the farm stories, especially since I was only a gentleman farmer as a youth. My parents concocted this scam on my sister, brother, and I that going to live on our grandparents’ farm from the last day of school to the first day of school would be great fun. As an adult I realize just how great it was for THEM! (OK, I admit, it was great for us kids too.)
One of the best memories of those summers is lunch (or dinner, as it is referred to west of 81.) In the late 1960’s and early 70’s dinner at the farm in Bunker Hill was a major production. While my grandparents’ farm was small, especially by today’s standards, the dinner table was full at noon Monday-Saturday.
Bernadine helped my grandmother with the household duties, sometimes assisted by her daughter LauraDawn. Jerry and Bobby were two high school kids who helped with farm and home duties. There was always a collection of ne’er-do-well farmhands who drank too much and taught us kid’s life-lessons that were not necessarily positive. Bernadine’s son Bradley was there on a regular basis along with the three of us Heim kids, and rounding out the table was the occasional hanger-on. There were at least a dozen folks and usually more around the table, all pitching in to get the work done.
Fast forward 45 years to the same home place in Bunker Hill. A couple of octogenarians run that same farm operation. Anyone who has ever worked with or for Max Heim knows that this isn’t exactly a fair comparison, because he can work any two twenty-year-olds into the ground, but still, what happened?
Obviously, a lot of the farm work is contracted out now, and automation has created efficiencies we couldn’t have dreamed of in 1970. No-till means that my job of cleaning the bindweed out of the one-way disks is over. Round bales are God’s gift to sore backs. I could go on.
Technology and science have created vast efficiencies in the modern world and eliminated many jobs at the same time. Jobs that any knuckleheaded 15-year-old Heim kid with a strong back could do no longer pay a living wage, if they exist at all. Schools, too, have changed and we have to keep changing to keep up. It is impossible to know what jobs and industry a 15-year-old knucklehead will be reflecting nostalgically upon because they don’t exist in 2062. It is possible to know that things will be different.
Our jobs as school leaders require that we prepare our students for a world that doesn’t exist. It is a tough job because it requires us to have a foot in the present and one in the future. But we cannot shy from the task. We have to be prepared to be different. We have to look beyond getting by for another year and look to a better future for our kids and Kansas. It’s tough, but believe me it’s better than cleaning bindweed out of a one-way.