Cordele Dispatch, Cordele, GA

Opinion

January 18, 2013

Life, liberty, and…..electronics?

Pinehurst — My granddaughter, Ellie Ferguson, is an electronic wizard.  At the age of two and a half she’s mastered her mother’s iphone.  If she can get her hands on the television remote, mayhem usually ensues.

Predictably, Ellie is not alone in her abilities. Toddlers all over the planet are figuring out how to manipulate their parent’s electronic gadgets so that they get the maximum amount of entertainment value out of them.  Toy companies are catering to them, too.

Ellie, it turns out, has a taste for The Allman Brothers Band, but in a pinch she’ll make do with Zeppelin, Skynerd, or Marshall Tucker.  What can I say?  

Why am I bragging on my granddaughter in the newspaper?  Mainly because I can, but secondarily so I can move on to this week’s topic, which includes educational toys.

Back in my day a penny was considered an ‘educational toy.’  That’s right.  If you stuck a penny into a wall outlet, you got an instant education.  Anybody who says money doesn’t go as far as it used to never stuck a nickel in an outlet, that’s certain.

My generation didn’t have a whole lot of educational toys.  What we had were borderline weapons and the panacea parental direction to ‘be careful.’  Right.

We had wood burning sets, BB guns, lawn darts, airplane glue, pocket knives, and baseball bats that, used improperly, would generally provide a child with a learning experience of some sort.  We had hundreds of ways to put out somebody’s eye, open an artery, or simply inflict a mild case of brain damage, all at our fingertips, without a warning label in sight.

I’d like to think that it’s a tribute to our collective intelligence that we survived these distractions, but the truth is that the Lord looks after babies and fools and back then most of us qualified on both counts.

On the ‘no so dangerous’ side of the list of toys were marbles.  Of course, our marbles weren’t real ‘marble’ but were made from glass.  Marbles were educational in the sense that, if you didn’t specify up front that you weren’t playing for keeps, you generally watched your marbles go home in another kid’s bag.

However, specifying beforehand that you weren’t playing for keeps was a direct avenue to yet another form of education.  You’d be instantly declared a sissy and one of the other kids would whip your butt and take your marbles without giving you the option to lose them fair and square.

Actually only one person beat me up and took my marbles and that was Joy Hamilton Edwards.  Yes, she did.  Not only that, she had both arms in a cast when she did it.

These were good, old fashioned plaster of Paris casts put together by Dr. Busbee, so it amounted to giving Joy a pair of brass knuckles for each hand.

On the other hand, when it gets late at night and I’m waxing nostalgic with friends and we discuss monumental mistakes we’ve made, I’ve never felt the need to say, “Let me tell you about the time a fifth grade girl with two broken arms put me into traction.”

Next week, how to avoid discussing politics using an antique mall, a fraternity brother, and a Ouija Board.

 

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