When I was in the second grade, my teacher’s twin daughters were also in the class.

They did a little duo “Oh Playmate, come out and play with me / And bring your dollies three / Climb up my apple tree / Look down my rain barrel / Slide down my cellar door /And we'll be jolly friends forever more.” To you it might sound cute, but I’ve remembered it for 40 years.

When I was in the second grade, my teacher’s twin daughters were also in the class.
They did a little duo “Oh Playmate, come out and play with me / And bring your dollies three / Climb up my apple tree / Look down my rain barrel / Slide down my cellar door /And we'll be jolly friends forever more.” To you it might sound cute, but I’ve remembered it for 40 years.

Art makes an impression.

That family was sort of the exception in that community.  The Bible speaks of being a light unto the gentiles.  They were a light unto the oil patch.

That sort of brightness pays off.  My teacher worked with her kids, and they have--I imagine because we’ve not been much in touch--have worked with theirs, and the last I heard my teacher’s granddaughter was in the Miss Oklahoma pageant.  If you can do that, then you might as well be Miss America.  Just sayin.

I am a teacher.  A teacher is much like a traveller who goes on a trip and then explains it to others in ways they can understand it.  The trip I am now on is life.  I want to know what makes it all work and tell you about it.

One of the things that we’ve got going for us is our collective memory.  We could also call this our culture.  I am not enough of a scholar to give a definition of culture.  I will tell you what I’ve seen.  We have a bunch of images, songs, and stories about the things that have happened to us as a people.

There are the little pieces like my mom’s Uncle Frank telling about the time his dad was driving a wagon on the road in one direction and met a black man who was doing the same coming from the other.  They made the black man pull off even though it was harder for him to do; mom’s uncle knew this was wrong and it bothered him until he died.

And there are the bigger pieces like “The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down.”  These are both, in their way, memories of the Civil War.

But unless a memory is remembered, is continued, is recounted, it dies.

The way these sorts of memories are continued is by teaching them to our children the way my second grade teacher taught hers.  The great thing about what she did was its multi-purposed effect.  She not only taught her own children, but in having them perform to my class she implanted in us the desire to learn in the same way.  The message was also there, for any parents canny enough to receive it, that we have the power to do this ourselves.

I have to admit this is high in my mind because my 12-year-old recently participated in the Jr. Stars Workshop.  They performed some pieces from the old “School House Rock” that used to be on TV Saturday mornings.  Let me tell you: having a love of music is good, being able to perform yourself is better, but being able to teach it to a group of children is the best of all.  The folks involved in this were just magnificent.

Most of these kids are not going off to Broadway or Hollywood, but as they have been taught to perform in front of a large group, they will not be daunted when they have to face-down a fat bureaucrat across a desk.  Having been the fat bureaucrat, I know this.
And they will also be bearers of the arts.

None of this happens by itself.  It is a cliche to say that it requires money.  Cliches are cliches because they are so frequently applicable.  This particular activity was funded by the Kansas Arts Commission for which funding was cut in the last round of budget cuts.
This means that seeing that culture is carried forward in this way will be left to folks like my second grade teacher.  It is a shame they are so rare.

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University.