Gas Caps and Schoolrooms January 10, 2023 curiosity education

Gas Caps and Schoolrooms

I took a road trip to South Carolina this weekend and, as you would expect, filled up before hitting the road.  The port to my gas tank doesn’t have a cover, but I do have a locked gas cap.  (Confession: This isn’t because I worry someone is going to steal my gas.  This is because I have a terrible habit of putting my gas cap on my bumper while pumping gas and then driving off without putting it back on.  I literally keep a spare gas cap in the back of my Jeep for just this purpose, and the last time I had to resupply, a gas cap with a lock was all they had.  You’d think I’d learn.)

My Jeep also has well over two hundred thousand miles on it, so I faithfully add gas treatment to the line on a regular basis–which I did on this particular occasion.  The guy on the other side of the pump had his daughter with him, and she was I’m guessing six years old–maybe seven.  Maybe.  And she was fizzing with that effervescent curiosity that is so fantastic to see in little kids.  Everything was a careful observation followed by relentless interrogation: “Daddy, do you see what that man is doing?  He’s putting something in his gas tank, Daddy–what is it?  Do you see that?  Why is that man putting something in his gas tank?  Does he know that’s not gas, Daddy?  Should we tell him?  Do you know what he’s doing, Daddy, because I don’t think that’s gas.”

The father very good humoredly explained what I was doing and said it was good for my Jeep.  Hoo boy.  “Well, then why aren’t we doing it, Daddy?  Is it because we have a truck, instead?  Is that different?  Are we supposed to be doing that, too?  Maybe we should buy some of that stuff he has–or, Daddy, do you think he has some extra we can use, since it’s a good idea?”

I threw away the empty gas treatment container, put the gas cap back on, and locked it–successfully ensuring that my backup cap can stay unused for one more go ’round.  “DADDY THAT MAN HAS A LOCK ON HIS GAS CAP.  Do you think it’s because he doesn’t have a cover like we do?  Is the lock so that nobody can steal his gas, because that’s really smart.  Does the cover on our truck mean nobody can steal our gas, Daddy?  Should we get one of those caps like that man has, just to make sure?”

I quietly chuckled and nodded at the father, who replied with a grin that was one part pride and one part fatigue.  What a blessing to have a little one so excited about exploring every detail of the world.  (And how much caffeine will it take to channel that for the next dozen years or so?)

I got back in my Jeep and turned toward the interstate and was immediately melancholy.  I didn’t know that fellow from Adam’s housecat, so it was really not my place to weigh in on his daughter’s education, but I really wanted to tell him, “Don’t put her in a traditional classroom, buddy.  What most of us see as a beautiful little girl who wants to soak up every bit of knowledge about her world will be treated as a problem in a traditional classroom.  She wants to ask questions; they’ll want her to do a worksheet.  She wants to study biology in a grove of maples and black cherries; they’ll want her to explore biology on a tablet.  Homeschool her.  Find a microschool.  Put her in a classical school.  But, please don’t let the traditional system snuff out that glorious flame of curiosity.  Because it will.”

Because it has.

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