The good old days revisited

Last night my wife and I got together with another couple whose anniversary is the same date as ours. We’ve been doing this for 5 years, dinner and a movie.

The lady is a teacher. She began teaching at my old school in 1981 and was there when I started in ’87 but left during the 90s and was a charter school principal. Just a few years ago she returned to our old school.

Last night I mentioned the problems I have with people talking as if the kids ’these days’ were qualitatively different from those of yesteryear. They swear that they can remember back to their first years of teaching and say they can no longer use material they could then, that kids behave worse, and so on and so on.

Today I was talking to a friend who said he looked at his grandfather’s college texts – his grandfather died about 10 years ago at age 100, so this would be textbooks from around the 20s – and they were significantly weaker than what we have students read now.

Anyway, this teacher said that she was sitting in the teachers’ lounge, listening to someone crab about “kids these days”, and she reminded them that when she started 25 years ago, they were saying the same thing about THOSE kids.

What always struck me as difficult to square with reality is that the person complaining about ’kids these days’ can be comparing them to kids from 40 years ago, 20 years ago, 5 years ago. In one case, a student who had graduated the past year and was now in his freshman year of college was standing at my door, looking in at my class, and shaking his head, muttering ’kids these days’. He assured me that when HE was in school…….. last year……………. BY GOD………….. you know the rest.

So just which generation is it that has so declined. Here’s a typical comment:

“During the past 30 or 40 years those who are responsible for education in many of our schools have progressively removed from the curriculum of studies the Western culture which produced the modern democratic state. The schools and colleges have, therfore, been sending out into the world men who no longer understand the creative principle of the society in which they must live… who no longer posses, in the form and substance of their own minds and spirits, the ideas, the ideals, the logic, the values, or the deposited wisdom which are the genius of the development of Western civilization……..

Modern education, however, is often based on a denial that it is necessary or useful or desirable to transmit the religious and classical culture of the Western world…. The prevailing education is destined, if it continues, to destroy civilization, and is in fact destroying it.”

Right out of a neocon screed, right? Written this past weekend, right?

No, that was written by Walter Lippman in 1941, just before the benighted denizens of decultured and emasculated Americans strode into history as The Greatest Generation.

And we now read the same drivel about ’kids these days’. I would just ask, are these the same kids who are fighting for us in Iraq and Afghanistan? Oh, that’s right, they’re all graduates of private, religious, and charter schools; otherwise, where in American public education could they possibly have obtained the values of sacrifice, loyalty, patriotism, valor, duty and faithfulness that they display every day?

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