Retired teacher leads current events groups into second decade

Profile of Stanley Blum

By Meghan McDevitt, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

Sunlight streams through the large windows in the lobby of the Boonshoft Center for Jewish Culture and Education, brightening a corner where a group of senior citizens are clustered around a table.

A woman, bundled in a black coat, asks the group, “What about the economy? Is there any hope?” Three women and one man turn expectantly to the white-haired man with black frame glasses also sitting at the table.

Stanley Blum leads his Current Event discussion series

Stanley Blum leans back against his chair, folding his arms across his chest as he gathers his thoughts.

“Yes, I think there’s a lot of hope. It’s not going to happen quickly, but a lot of effort is being made.”

The group absorbs Blum’s response. Over mid-morning coffee and baked goods, a discussion follows, with comments and questions from the group. Topics cross from unemployment and banks to the pros and cons of unions, health-care systems, personal finance, and more.

Though he has been retired for 17 years, Blum, age 80, doesn’t plan to withdraw from an active life anytime soon.

An avid traveler and lifelong learner, Blum keeps himself busy with a multitude of volunteer activities, including this discussion group.

He has led weekly current events discussions for the Dayton Jewish Community Center and Jewish Senior Service Agency for more than 10 years.

“Sometimes I learn more from them than they learn from me,” he chuckles, mentioning that his favorite aspect of running the discussions is just keeping up with what’s going on in the world and making sure he has an eye on the big picture.

Today, Blum came prepared with a fresh copy of the Dayton Daily News, a small pile of books, and various magazines.

“I’m interested in finding out what is really happening — it’s not easy to do today,” he says. “We have to be constantly looking at and being critical of what is happening.”

As a former high school teacher, Blum has long had an interest in the social sciences and how they relate to current events. Blum taught history, economics, political science, and “anything in the social sciences” for 24 years at Colonel White (now Thurgood Marshall High School) and spent two years as a teacher and counselor at Shiloh Elementary. Blum also taught at Wilbur Wright Middle School before going back to Colonel White as a counselor.

Blum sports a gray sweatshirt with the words Grand Canyon printed across the chest, a souvenir recently acquired during his three-week cross-country trip with his wife, Connie.

He says they enjoy venturing to new places and take every opportunity to travel. Married for 54 years in August, they have three daughters and six grandchildren (five girls and one boy, affectionately referred to as “TB,” The Boy).

During today’s discussion, Blum’s eyes light up when he mentions Medicare and Medicaid. Proudly, he pulls out a few sheets of typewritten paper.

Blum explains that this is a bill he is working on to send to the president, which proposes dissolving the current health care system and establishing a national system.

“Something needs to be done,” he says with determination.

Blum’s goal for these discussions is to get people to think.

“I want people to question,” he says. “Hopefully, if you think about something, you will express your opinion on it. Our individual opinions can make a difference: but only if we express them.”

He smiles as he shares the two most important lessons he taught in his classes and continues to pass on.

First, change is inevitable because things never stay the same. You can let it happen or you can help move it in a direction that will be meaningful, he says.

“If you understand change, you will begin to understand your role, whether that be a role as a teacher, a student, a neighbor, a parent, or a sibling.”

Second, communication is key. “You must find out the truth about what you hear or read and you must find out what that means.”

Blum says of the groups, “We might not have the answers, but what we do have is a point of view.”

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