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Oak Ridge, TN

The sirens blared for a minute yesterday morning, still tested monthly on the first Wednesday of the month.  My mother has no idea what to do if they go off.  She says she supposes she'd turn on the radio and wait for instructions.  I remember when there was a real feeling of fear, here.  We thought we'd be the first ones to get bombed.  This town was built in the 1940's to support the production of the atomic bombs and other secrets.  Whoever names the city calls it "Secret City" now---it used to be the "Atomic City" but I guess that's not such a popular name these days.

The scientists who work at the labs don't live in Oak Ridge anymore.  I used to think of Oak Ridge as a pocket of international PhD's who were above the southern morass.  Educated and openminded.  That is no longer true.  The road between the plants and West Knoxville has many more lanes, and at rush hour you can see where the lab personnel are going.  My friends tell me that Oak Ridge is become more like the rest of east Tennessee, that is, less educated and more religious and patriotic.

Patriotic externally at least.  On my mother's block most houses have a flag or some sort of "God Bless America" display going on.  My mother has an American flag hanging on her front gate, and there's one in the window of her neighbor's house, and one on the porch of the neighbor across the street.  My father, in another neighborhood, also has one up.  I don't know what exactly all these flags mean.  I think that if you do not display your patriotism, you are suspect of being a terrorist.  I also suspect that the flags declare gun ownership, because the second amendment is enshrined here.  Certainly one would be foolish to threaten anyone, because stickers on vehicles declare that their guns will only be removed from cold dead hands, or that the guns will be smoking hot and out of ammo.  Hanging a flag is in a sense cammo for my relatives who are not so well armed.

Religiousness is endemic here.  Christianity, to be specific.  My mother says Baptists are the dominant sect but the Catholics and Methodists have churches near here and active communities.  I walked by the Methodist church this morning, taking the dog out, and noticed that they have a "First Steps" program for "child development".  Every church has some program for the little ones.  It occurs to me to wonder, does anyone attempt to teach the little ones skepticism and critical thinking?  Are the children getting properly socialized, or dogmatized?  Probably some of each, I suspect.

Oak Ridge is overwhelmingly white.  I did run across a Hispanic mother and her two children waiting for the bus.  She kept them far away from my mother's dog.  And I have seen a few blacks here and there.  The talker who used to work at the gym who now hangs out by the door at Panera to keep social.  He doesn't know when to say goodbye.  Another nonwhite is my mother's old friend Dimitri who is Middle Eastern, and walks everywhere, picking up trash and coins from the sidewalks.  He was an engineer at the plant, has plenty of money in the bank, but lives in a tiny apartment and does not own a car.  I would like to talk to him.  I haven't seen a single native since I've been here, that is, aside from white eyes who were born here like myself.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2015 10:29 pm (UTC)
Critical thinking is supposedly part of the job of public education. I don't recall any experience that remotely resembled that from first grade through high school. Almost all my fellow students ended thinking like their parents. Somehow, "i alone escaped to tell the tale." College helped a lot.
Nov. 5th, 2015 11:53 pm (UTC)
The common core is supposed to encourage the "application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills". I hope that it succeeds in more than one in each highschool class.
Nov. 6th, 2015 09:24 pm (UTC)
I went to the Methodist pre-school on the hill above Jackson Square in 1970 and '71. There was no explicitly religious instruction; most of the education I received there was about getting along with my fellow students. As you say, half of my classmates were themselves children of scientists working at the Labs, but there was at least an attempt at egalitarianism.

I suspect that much has changed in the intervening years, but my memories of pre-school in Oak Ridge are pretty pleasant.
Nov. 6th, 2015 10:19 pm (UTC)
I had an unpleasant experience in the Methodist Sunday school and after that I refused to go. They asked us to draw God and I drew my right hand, which I said was the hand of God because I myself was a part of God. My Sunday school teacher did not like it, and the Methodists lost me. I rather enjoyed the Episcopalians more but never was truly religious.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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