|We didn't set out to change the world. Far from it. It wasn't even our goal. What we set out to do was to make folks aware of the world. It started like so many revolutions do, in a living room in the suburbs, my living room to be exact. It was me, Crazy Connie, Naomi, and Zee. It was supposed to be Candle Party--and yeah, we bought some candles--but mostly we ate and drank wine--and after the demonstrator left we kicked off our shoes and do what we do best--comment on the decline of civilization as we know it.
"Jason came home yesterday and wondered what the capitol of Omaha was?" I said, mostly to myself. Jason is in the eighth grade and has decent grades--he's no rocket scientist prospect--Bs and Cs and mostly. But frankly, I was shocked that this primary bit of information was no where to be found in his brain.
"I know," Zee said. She was sprawled out in my recliner with a glass of wine in one hand and a plate of Better Than Sex yellow cake on her lap. "Tom, thought we could drive from Paris to Madagascar in a couple of hours." Tom is Zee's husband--he's the CEO of small box manufacturing company.
"When I was in the fourth grade, we learned all the states and capitols," Crazy Connie said, "if we didn't know them, we didn't pass." Connie was pulling her lip out and making stupid squinting faces--something she did mostly when she had too much to drink. "In fifth grade we had to know the names of all the countries in the world--and where to find them on the map. We were tested! We had to pass."
I opened another bottle of Huckleberry Reisling and refilled our glasses. Naomi, who had so far remained silent and attentive in her corner of the sofa, says. "We should do something!" She is a small woman, so shy she barely makes eye contact with anyone. We all suspect she is abused at home--but we don't have any proof--and she won't talk. Not about what happens at home--not about much of anything. So this was out of the ordinary.
Everyone stopped and held their glasses in abeyance and looked at Naomi--who almost looked back and said again, quieter this time. "We should."
"She's right," Zee said, bolting to attention and sending the plate of Better Than Sex Yellow Cake crashing to the floor. Even Naomi laughed. "We could start a group to educate kids about Geography." Zee said, her voice high with excitement as she knelt on the floor scooping up cake crumbs. "We would make it cool!"
"Yeah," says Crazy Connie, " We could call it GAS." Think of the fun we could have with that acronym.
"Gas?" asked Naomi, unfurling from her corner of the sofa.
"Geographic Awareness Society," said Crazy Connie, who pinched her nose with one hand and waved away an imaginary noxious smell with another.
We were all bent over with laughter --but it was more than that. Yeah, it was funny, that's what made it cool. But it was necessary, and we --the four of us--- we could make it happen.
In the next few weeks we worked feverishly. Naomi got us a spot on the PTA agenda for next month. Crazy Connie made up a whole bunch of crazy cute stickers with slogans like: I've got GAS. Pass the GAS, and Get GASSED!! The kids were going to go nuts for this stuff.
Zee and I worked on the content. We started regionally. Making games, and rap songs, and stories about the states , towns, rivers, and mountains of the Pacific Northwest. We thought we'd cover the United States Regionally, week by week. Then move on to Canada, Central America, South American and the World. Once word got out in the neighborhood about our little group, more and more moms volunteered. By the time the night of the PTA meeting arrived, we not only had cool stickers, but we had whole age appropriate curriculum developed and we'd set up a number of after school sites to hold the meetings. It was perfect. Or so we thought.
The school administration took umbrage with what they deemed was our attempt to undermine their authority. They were, and a very slight majority of the PTA members attending agreed, only authorities on proper curriculum for school age children. The state--who funded public education, had long ago determined that geography was not a necessary part of any child's education and if we, the founding mothers of GAS, didn't agree we should take it up with our legislators.
"But," we tried to interject, "but, but we aren't asking for funding, or asking for a slice of the teacher's time...." No one listened. They had moved on to the next agenda item. We couldn't believe it. All that work and no one would listen.
We've gone underground--we still meet and have clandestine meetings where we teach children geography. Our kids have been warned to wear their cool stickers on the insides of their shirts. Crazy Connie's daughter Jazzy was expelled for three days for wearing an I've Got GAS sticker on her rain slicker.
This can still work. Spread the word. Isn't it time for all of us to pass GAS to the next generation!