Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Midlife Education Begins

In a previous post, Liberal Education is a Waste (6/4/05), I posed the thesis that what kids really need is a strong foundation in the basics (reading, writing, arithmetic and science), morals and civics (the bible and Judeo-Christian values, Western Civilization and American history, the United States Constitution) followed by professional training in your chosen field.

I suggested that the traditional Liberal Arts courses, while fun, added little of value to the education that is needed for job success.

On the other hand, I truly believe that liberal studies can be remarkably enriching when you have the time to learn for the fun of it.

When I retired at age 59, I did not appreciate this point of view and wondered what I was going to do with myself. For a while I cleaned the garage and my office. But when I began rearranging the kitchen cabinets and drawers, Lee put her foot down and kicked me out of the house. So I joined a docent training course just to have something to do.

The Los Serenos de Point Vicente docents are a Rancho Palos Verdes volunteer group that runs a marvelous little museum at Point Vicente and takes thousands of kids on hikes to the tide pools and canyons. I joined the new class in January, 2002 and was immediately captivated by the course material.

One requirement was a piece of research and a report on some aspect of Palos Verdes environment, history, culture or wildlife. Since I knew nothing about geology and was entranced by the Palos Verdes physical beauty, I chose the shape of the hills as my subject. My report was called Palos Verdes Geomorphology: The Shape of Beauty. It is available in the Local History Room at the Peninsula Center Library or in electronic form; just send me an email.

Approaching Palos Verdes from any direction, you are struck by its great natural beauty. Any view of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, with its 18 miles of spectacular coastline, is breathtaking. One is amazed by the natural variation, from the rolling hills, to the rugged canyons, broad terraces, steep ocean cliffs, rocky beaches and tidepools. You can’t help but wonder about the foundation of all this varied natural beauty. What were the forces that gave rise to the gentle terraces and the rugged crevices and the shoreline cliffs as high as 300 feet? How has the surface topography changed over time and has the change been rapid or gradual?

The story of Palos Verdes is short on the geologic time scale, only 20 million years or so, less than 1% of the time since the earth was formed. What’s more, the rate of change is still quite rapid. About 20 million years ago (MYA), the Palos Verdes Fault was formed (roughly parallel to and between Pacific Coast Highway and Palos Verdes Drive North). Motion relative to this fault has governed much of the geologic history of the Peninsula. Around 3 MYA, slips along the fault raised the sea floor into a pronounced undersea knoll, the Palos Verdes knoll. Then around 2 MYA the vertical slips on the fault raised the knoll above sea level and the Palos Verdes Island first emerged.

It is believed that the Hill has been rising at an average rate of 0.4 mm/yr (0.016 inch/yr). At that rate, Palos Verdes achieved its present elevation (1480 feet above sea level) in about 1 MY. During that time the 13 marine terraces (currently from 50 to 1300 feet in elevation) that are prominent features of the Palos Verdes terrain were formed by wave action. Around 100 KYA, sedimentary filling of the LA basin was sufficient to reach sea level and the island became the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The rest of my report dealt with earthquakes, “… the beauty-making love-beats of Nature’s heart” (John Muir 1912); landslides including the 1999 disaster at the Ocean Trails golf course (now called Trump National at LA) where a million cubic foot mass of earth slipped 50 feet and fell into the ocean; and the geomorphic future of the Peninsula (that in 100,000 years will slip along its fault by about 1700 feet toward Redondo Beach, accompanied by an uplift of about 130 feet, so that the current shore becomes the 14th marine terrace).

That docent course and research was my initiation to midlife education. What great fun! There’s no looking back now.

2 Comments:

Blogger Stephanie said...

I don't know if I've already told you, but we're doing some of the Principle Approach next year and I'm very excited about it. A study found that kids who understand the biblical foundations of our country tend to have much more freedom-based worldviews, exhibit more personal responsibility (from the emphasis on self-government) and speculation is that they're more likely to become leaders in their peer groups. It's really a cool program!

7:38 PM  
Blogger Ralph said...

Trump National at LA! same flavor as the Los Angeles Angeles at Anaheim.

2:00 PM  

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