From the Pen of Carter P. Smith
"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." That truism, offered by former Harvard University President Derek Bok, drives home the point that investing in educating our young people is a winning proposition for everyone. A solid education benefits not only each individual but also society as a whole. At your Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, we could not agree more. We might also add that investments in the minds of young Texans should encompass basic learning and skills about our state's rich and varied natural and cultural heritage.
For many of my friends growing up, much of that learning about our wild things and wild places came about from direct experiences in the outdoors. It came from trips to the country, from going afield with a parent, sibling or grandparent on a fishing, hunting, camping or beachcombing trip, or from exploring a nearby pasture, field, cedar break, creek, prairie or bottomland. Kids had the freedom and the opportunity to enjoy ample unstructured playtime in and among nature.
Regrettably, those opportunities for our current crop of young Texans are all too uncommon. Perhaps that is not altogether surprising given that more than 80 percent of us live in large ?metropolitan areas, seemingly far away from wild places. Or that recent studies show that kids in the United States are spending on average 6.5 hours per day of their discretionary time on activities ?associated with the use of television and other forms of electronic media. A resulting disconnect with nature is an obvious possible outcome of these trends. So is conservation illiteracy. Both are cause for concern.
Please know we are not sitting idly by while either happens. The future of our state's lands, waters, fish, wildlife, cultural resources and parks are dependent upon an educated populace that values all that nature and history bring to our quality of life, our economic health and our personal well-being. Through TPWD-sponsored outdoor adventure programs like Project Wild, Texas Outdoor Family, Archery in Schools, Texas Youth Hunting Program and hunter/angler education initiatives, we are working to make experiences in nature lifelong pursuits for all Texans.
I am pleased to also say that through a very generous grant from ExxonMobil, we will use the pages of this magazine to launch a special section for kids, entitled "Keep Texas Wild." Every month, we will devote four fun-filled pages to Texas-specific facts and hands-on learning ?activities about the natural world. The activities will involve applications of art, math, history and the social sciences.
This month's inaugural section focuses on the role of predators. Future issues will cover topics such as the mysteries of bird migrations, bats, animal homes and water conservation. Every elementary school in Texas, public and private, will receive three complimentary copies of the magazine per month. Supplementary teacher tool kits with additional lesson plans will be available on our Web site.
I hope you will use "Keep Texas Wild" to introduce a youngster you know to the great outdoors. And, who knows, perhaps it will inspire the next John Graves, Wyman Meinzer, Dan Lay or Lady Bird Johnson, four special Texans who have all inspired me to help keep the Texas I know and love a little wilder for a little longer.