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the_50s_those_good_old_daysI’m greatly afraid that my generation has lost its collective marbles. I take comfort in the fact, that every generation at some point is spoken of this way. If I’m right, then we are doomed as a society, and that would displease me quite a lot. I’d hate for civilization to end on my watch.

A friend suggested that he thought we got a “pretty good high school education.” I spent more time in social studies and literature and thought the offerings mediocre (looking back from of course the lofty position of “higher” education), while he spent time in math and science and thought he got a rather good effort from his teachers.

The problem is one of perspective of course. Those that have nary opened a serious book since they paraded around the gymnasium in their blue gowns and little hats rather think they were “well-educated” since they have managed in most cases to chew gum and walk at the same time, which is, albeit for some a herculean effort.

Those that either attended a reputable university (all the TV preacher colleges excepted please), or those motivated by someone or something to learn on their own, have a better  perspective I would argue to decipher the puzzle.

If you mean, did I learn to read and write a simple enough declarative sentence, read road signs and interpret them correctly, follow the directions at the polling place (and be there in the first place), stand when I heard the National Anthem (unless I was flirting with Marxism at the time), and pay my taxes on time  even while cutting every corner I thought I might get away with, then yes, I was well-educated in high school.

If you mean, on the other hand, was I taught to read carefully, discriminatingly, and with a critical eye, was I taught to evaluate arguments, avoid straw men (what the hell were they?), reserve judgment until more facts were accumulated, heck define a fact from a feel-good facsimile, then no, I was not well-educated in high school.

The fact is that education, publicly at least, has probably always been the former, more or less.  We are required to attend school to accomplish this: (1) become “good” citizens however defined but including being law-abiding, honest (on the big things at least), voting (again at least on the big things), and willing, oddly enough, to offer one’s life up for the entity known as “one’s country”, and (2) to fill out simple forms and read directions such that one can do the above as well as become a good cog in the economic machine.

A certain number of those being so groomed are culled from the herd as “college material” and will go forth to don the white collars and supervise the rest, or provide other medium level services, such as accounting, teaching of the young, druggists, and so forth. They may at will also participate in low-level political jobs such as school boards, city councils, mayoral duties in smaller towns, and so forth.

The malady of which I speak or was alluding to in the title seems to affect mostly those who rather blithely go through life, thinking themselves both learned and intelligence with nothing but a faded high school diploma to assure them of their abilities. The malady?

Thinking that things were better “back when”.

I belong to a forum or two dedicated to the high school I once attended, and it is fraught with this sort of talk. The old neighborhood has “gone down”, it’s not longer “safe”. All the old hangouts are “torn down”. Many a sentence begins with “when we were kids” and then goes on to explain how we were safe, happy, well-fed, drug-free, healthy, robust, patriotic, god-fearing, obedient, polite, mannerly and so forth. By contrast today’s youth are none of the above, except  one’s own grandchildren which are all perfect and the best ever produced.

Of course there are myriad causes for the “decline”, but it usually breaks down to one of several causes: (1) Democrats, i.e., liberals, (2) Republicans, i.e., conservatives and tea party adherents, (3) lazy people, i.e., people of color including immigrants, (4) crime and drugs, attributed to number (3) and condoned by (1).

The life seen in retrospect was akin to Donna Reed and Leave it to Beaver rolled into one.

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We seem to have forgotten a lot of real truth here. More than a little I would say. In fact while we remember the “good” we have forgotten the bad. In the 50’s and 60’s most children who contracted leukemia died.

Most African-Americans were trapped in ghettos in the north and Jim Crow lives in the south. But at least we could boast that the tax rate on high incomes was upwards of 90% something which causes gasps today as we have been taught that asking the rich to pay any taxes somehow inhibits their ability to “create jobs”. They created plenty back then. Today big agribusiness has driven most small farmers out of  business, while they reap farm subsidies alongside the natural resource people  adding to their billions of profits each year, but it’s somehow really bad to give people food stamps to eat. Those are handouts and wrong. Business subsidies are good. Those things remain with us from our youth.

Women made less on the dollar than men than they do now, back in the 50’s.

degradingwomen (The ad denotes that a man wearing these pants is so amazing that a woman can’t wait to be walked on by him). This is how our mothers were thought of. It is the role model many of us grew up with. We looked to “marry well” and have kids, and keep a clean house. My mother and her sister-in-law waged a silent battle to out do the other at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and my grandmother joined in for who could be-ribbon their gifts with prettier and bigger bows.
goodawfulHow far back to you want to go?

Not as far, I gather to the great depression?
Not so far as World War II? Let’s skip that part about Russia and the Cold War, and practicing duck and cover under the desks. Let’s skip the Cuban Missile Crisis when even us kids walked on egg-shells knowing something awful was afoot.

If you stopped at the high school level, then you know so damned little about the reality of this country that you’re bound think that the 50’s were great and should be returned to.

That’s why when people who have some knowledge of the unconscionable things this country has done in the name of “security” or its economic interests”, naturally point out those evils, you feel attacked. You then come with your misunderstood “history” which was never really  true in the first place but was fed to you to make you a good obedient citizen.

You tell us your distorted recollection of the founding fathers, now lacquered with Christian fundamentalist fervor. You tell us of “unfettered free markets” which never were in the first place. You tell us of all the bullshit you’ve been fed since by a propaganda machine that claims it’s “fair and balanced” so you trust it. It’s all crap, but now you’re defending your “way of life” which was nothing like reality in the first or last place, but makes you feel relevant once again.

The fact is you don’t know the real world and don’t want any part of it. It makes you feel uncomfortable because it goes against all you remember from the past plus what Fox has told you to fear and blame. So you do, and you wail for the “good old days” when life was perfect, although it wasn’t, and you’re neighbor was beating his kids, and another was raping his daughter, and another was suffering with knowing he was attracted to other guys and had no one to confide in, and this family was fighting over money every day and night, and that mother was a secret drunk, and the lady across the street took pills to keep from screaming.

That’s real life. And it’s a damn shame that you are in your sixties and still have no clue. And you won’t learn because shit, it’s just way to easy to pretend, and blame somebody other than your little group. And the beat goes on, my friend, and you never grew up and you never will.

And that’s why your education sucked in high school, because nobody ignited the spark of curiosity in you, and you didn’t have it naturally. At that’s most of you. Thank god, apparently society functions like that. Or maybe it would be better if it didn’t.

I just know I’m not like most of you. Not better in a lot of ways. In a lot of ways worse. But man I cannot live in a dream world created for comfort. I cannot. It will not be part of growing older for me.