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FIFTY Study Page: Kentucky - "Electrification"

FIFTY Study Page: Kentucky - "Electrification"

Mildred Watkins Chandler, wife of Kentucky Governor Happy Chandler, is hesitant about one of her husband’s big initiatives: bringing electricity to rural farms. She understands the benefits. but wonders if anyone is considering the costs: what do we give up when we increase speed, productivity, and efficiency. Lucky for her, one of those rural farmers agrees.

Kentucky History - History of the New Deal including the Rural Electrification Administration - Biography of Albert “Happy” Chandler

Kentucky Geography - Map of Kentucky’s cities that had electric power in 1935 and then all the rural areas that did not.

“Electrification” Study Topics - What are the benefits of modern technology and what do we give up when we choose them? - What are the personal and social costs?

Topics for Reflection

From a Child Development Perspective:

In this story, your child might learn that:

  • Grown-ups can sometimes forget the "child in them." Mildred Watkins Chandler knew that there is a “child in everyone.” What does that really mean? This might be something that is hard for a child to understand (for the very reason that they are still a child!) but it would be a wonderful thing to discuss with your young one.

  • One of the ways that we show another person that we really care about them is by showing that we are truly interested in them. For Mildred, this meant connecting with them by slowing down in the moment, looking them in the eye, and talking about something they loved. And what a wonderful opportunity for us all! Let’s try it. Slow down in the moment, look each other in the eye, and talk about something you love.

  • There is something magical about the way that food can connect people. Perhaps it had to do with taking care of each other's needs. Perhaps it’s because enjoying delicious, savory, and comforting food is so very nurturing. Perhaps it is coming together to express gratitude for the bounty of life as suggested in the words “breaking bread together." Perhaps it's because people come together and slow down to give love and attention to their food and to each other. Ruth Mills Street knew how to bring peace and satisfaction to relationships through her gift in preparing food for her friends.

  • The clock has nothing to do with joy and magic. So often in life we have to pay such close attention to the clock to get to our scheduled appointments or activities or to put limits on what we do from one minute to the next. But isn't it true that the clock really has nothing to do with joy and magic? There is a "place outside of time" where:

    ...everything happens in a split second — everything happens faster than thought — it is a place where there is no ‘considering’ or ‘understanding’ — you can only act and react. It is a beautiful place — almost outside of time.

  • For Senator Chandler, this place of “no time” could be found in baseball. For Ruth, it was in watching the peaches ripen of their own accord — in "peach time."

  • We gain so much when we can be more efficient — but at the same time we can lose something, as well. Mildred and Ruth were concerned that once electricity came to Kentucky — something they were very excited but also nervous about — it might change what happens in those "sweet connections that live outside of time."

    "Is everything better when it is done faster, more efficiently, and with less effort?" This would be a great question to discuss with our children. What kinds of things can we do because we are freed from having to tend to the details of some of our routines? But what do we also lose?

  • There are benefits and drawbacks to modernization. What does it mean to be "old-fashioned"? What are some of the good things about being old-fashioned, and what are some of the advantages to be more "modern"?

    “I don’t know to be honest. I do think it will deliver all that it promises — speed, efficiency, productivity … but Ruth, I have to wonder what we will give up for that. Call me old fashioned, but I really don’t mind things being slow and not so focused on being productive.”

  • Patience comes when we allow things to unfold in their own time. Peaches are most sweet when they ripen without hurry. Mildred also felt that the perfect sweetness from peaches transported her to a familiar place outside of time where there were no worries and no regrets. (Maybe this has something to do with her finding the child inside of her self?)

  • Modern electricity is actually nothing more than a tool. Governor Chandler reminds us that it tool that can be turned on and off. It is up to us to know how to use it well!

About the Authors

David Sewell McCann

Story Spinner

David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.

Meredith Markow

Sparkle Schoolhouse Head of School

Meredith has been working with adults and children of all ages for the past 25 years as a Waldorf Teacher and Educational Consultant. She received a B.A. with a focus on child development and child psychology from the University of Michigan, in 1984, an M.A. Ed from Washington University in 1987, and her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Lehrerausbildung (Teacher Training) in Nurnberg, Germany in 1989. She was certified as a Living Inquiries Facilitator in 2014, and she completed her formal teaching certification with The Enneagram Institute in 2014. Her work in the classroom and with individuals and groups is designed to help people of all ages to drop self-limiting beliefs to live a more joyful and compassionate life.

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