Woody Guthrie's birthday came and went, and I meant to make something of it, but one thing and then another came up, and now here it is almost August. Well, better late...
As kids in our neck of the woods scour the shelves at Target and WalMart for their back-to-school backpacks and all the stuff to stuff therein -- they return to the grind August 8th -- my thoughts turn to all the things that don't fit into backpacks or curricula or accepted canon. For example, every school kid in this country can probably sing the first verse of Woody Guthrie's best known song, "This Land is Your Land." But how many can sing the two least-known verses to that best-known song?
In the squares of the city, in the shadow of a steeple
by the relief office I'd seen my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on that sign there it said "no trespassing"
But on the other side it didn't say nothing
That side was made for you and me.
Unschoolers are sometimes subject to the criticism that there will be great gaps in our kids' education as a result of our unconventional approach to learning. But there are gaps in all our educations, in all our knowledge. I was nearly thirty years old before I heard these two verses of Guthrie's most famous song. Why have they been left out of the canon, and what else is left out along with them?
Woody Guthrie was born July 14, 1912 and died in 1967. He lived through two world wars and two undeclared wars, the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. He mingled with communists and tagged his guitars with the slogan "This Machine Kills Fascists."
The Official Woody Guthrie Website can tell you more about him than I ever could. I just wanted to raise a toast in honor of his birthday, even if I'm a little bit late.