Nostalgia…in education

Posted: July 21, 2015 in Ideas

Nostalgia is pervasive in all manners of existence.  It would be wonderful to think that each day time could be set aside to think, speculate…then write…revise, edit…create something worthy of other’s time.  But yet each day moves rapidly filled with obligations that in many ways were brought on by this same nostalgia.  For instance, it would be nice to know that each day, a small amount of time could be set aside to get involved in the pursuits of the mind.  Unfortunately, employment, parenting, and any other commitments that have been added on by societal morays and concepts take away that time.  So, like many others, I hope to get more involved with the pursuits of the mind.  As long as I can break away from the nostalgic view of the creative process – think, create, review, revise, recreate…repeat, I think I might be able to move forward.

Having spent the majority of the last 25 years in education, it should not surprising that I see that greatest affect of nostalgia is in the world of academia.  Centuries ago, education was accomplished many times through the storyteller / philosopher / elder / teacher explaining, in painstaking detail, via multiple examples a concept…this was not a dialogue – nor was it meant to be.  Sometime in the 20th century, that all changed.  Yes, with publishing becoming easier, and the relative number of “educated” people growing, the idea that more than a single teacher could discuss, with a modicum of intelligence, a certain concept…that idea continues to grow exponentially because of internet, smartphones and sound-bite like phrasing.  Today, many consider themselves experts – or at least well-versed enough on a topic, so that they could debate, discuss, or dictate with and /or to others.  So our “nostalgic” view of education is that of a round table discussion involving teach and student and progressing in such a way that the line between the two would hopefully get blurred.  That image is one more propagated by the Media than by Academia itself…for those in academia long for the days of the Socratic method / style of thought provoking questions inviting contemplation…not the current climate of questions of provocation which provoke a defensive reaction which inevitable stifles further contemplation.

The school calendar would be a primary example of our nostalgic view of education.  The school year, for instance, is an ode to nostalgia.  Built around an agricultural lifestyle, the school calendar insists on “summers-off” so that the children of farmers could help with the planting, cultivating and eventually the harvesting of crops.  There is no longer a reason for this. The argument against a shift in the school calendar originate from  the parents, as well as the vacation industry.  But where is the benefit to taking off two or more months from school?  Students of today struggle now as it is because of limited support as far as academic support is concerned.  Young people rarely embrace intellectual pursuits when grades are the consequential.  The extended break in the summer months only makes this worse.  Summer reading, reading contests and / or summer work does not accomplish what daily attendance to an academic institution could.  Many view this as a painful change…but as they say “change is good.



Posted: July 27, 2013 in Ideas, issues & concerns

David Hinckley, a TV and Movie critic for the New York Daily News, wrote a short piece on July 8, 2012 recognizing the depth and nostalgic role portrayed by the character Andy Taylor on the 1960’s television series “The Andy Griffith Show”.   On the heels of the death of Andy Griffith, one  should not be surprised that a retrospective look at one of the characters portrayed by Andy Griffith would find its way onto the pages of a well-circulated New York newspaper.  What makes this retrospective look unique is the idea suggested by Hinckley that “Andy Taylor personified a life that every American…yearns periodically to embrace”.  In the 1960s, as the issue of institutionalized civil rights violations was coming to the fore in America, The Andy Griffith Show told the story of a town where life was “safe and secure” according to David Hinckley.  Mayberry was a  town where most human flaws were marginalized, and many societal issues were solved with peaceful discussion,  mutual understanding and unencumbered acceptance.  As Hinckley continues, he makes the point that during its run, and for the 40 years since The Andy Griffith show first aired, most of our political and societal discussion had as its foundation the idea that America, and most of the world for that matter could solve its problems if we just returned to a simpler, more naive way of life – “if government or corporations or politicians or someone would just get out of the way”.

After a great amount of thought, it is the idea that “if …someone would just get out of the way” all would be right in the world…that balance would be restored, which gives life to the idea that it is our perception of what a good life would be like is based on a nostalgic viewpoint of a lifestyle, that in most cases has been relayed via secondary or tertiary sources, that is no longer possible because of evolution.  Thus, that which must “just get out of the way” is evolution, which is impossible to stop – despite how evolution is defined, or measured.

Now that makes for good conversation.


It has occurred to me as we enter this latest Labor Day Weekend that for this generation (actually every generation since “the Greatest Generation”) this holiday weekend is a very ironic one.

The US government has begun to refer to the current recession as “the Great Recession”.  No doubt such a reference is was coined out of fear that if the term Depression was used, panic would ensue.  That idea is interesting on many levels.  On one level the assumption that panic would ensue if the word Depression is used suggests that the majority of Americans know what the Great Depression was.  That may be the first faulty assumption.  With the current state of the education system in this country (of which I am part), it is not a huge leap to suggest that many young people today could not recite many facts, ideas, concepts or opinions as they relate to the Great Depression.  I may go so far as to suggest that a large majority of citizens under the age of 25 know very little about the Great Depression.  So to suggest that the government purposely does not use the word Depression when describing our economic situation because of the reaction it might cause is suggesting that our populace is well-versed in American History and appreciates the major events that have shaped it.

Another level on which the choice of terms when describing our economic condition is interesting deals with contemporary history itself.  Although the US did rise out of the Great Depression, most acknowledge that the rising from the ashes was a direct result of WWII.  If that is the case, and most do believe that to be so, then the US economic flaws which caused the Great Depression were never really fixed.  Of course there were monumental pieces of legislation passed by the FDR-led government designed to “re-form” the economy, unfortunately though most of the wage-price issues were not addressed.  Furthermore, the effects of mobilization for WWII and the subsequent boom after the war gave most the idea that our economy was fixed so those wage-price issues were never examined on a  public level therefore leading to the false impression that the US economy was back on track.  It was not…and it still is in disrepair!  So as far as history is concerned, the Depression ended with WWII and the economy was once again healthy by the 1950s.

A third idea that comes to mind when mulling the government description of our current economic state is the complete ignoring of the Energy Crisis of the 1970s.  When the OPEC nations finally understood the power that they wield, the US public should have realized then the major flaw within our economy.  We had based most of our economic growth and success on cheap oil.  Once the oil was no longer being sold to us at such a cheap price, our economic house of cards began to crumble. And it still crumbles to today under the weight of energy related inflation. Whether it is the production of gas-guzzling cars which caused the US car manufacturers to suffer, or the relocating of factories overseas in order to avoid rising labor costs which were a result of a ballooning cost of living, the US never reacted to this OPEC-led extortion of the free world. How the US should have reacted is up for debate – as is everything obviously, but the point is the US has been in an economic quagmire since the Great Depression and no major effort or sacrifice has been embraced to try to rescue our sinking nation.

And therein lies the irony.  We celebrate the working American this weekend while the economy continues to free fall.  We are mired in a “double-dip” recession which is on the verge of being declared a “Great Recession”.  The unemployment rate continues to rise (despite the fancy categorizing and manipulating of the numbers) as the creation of jobs stalls.  Labor Day sales, and Back-to-School pricing will fill stores with plastic-toting debt-saddled citizens looking to make themselves feel better in this gloomy atmosphere of earthquakes, hurricanes, and unnecessary war.  Beaches, pools and backyards will be bustling with people hoping for on last hurrah before the stark reality of watered down curriculum and a bleak economic forecast hits with full force.

We are delusional to think that half-hearted government rhetoric and legislative bandages are going to repair our damaged economy; an economy that has been damaged since the 1930s.  Maybe it’s time we let the bottom fall out.  Maybe it’s time to admit we are in the beginning stages of another Great Depression.  Maybe it’s time the more current generations face the reality that our lives may not be better than the generations before us.

And that’s why the Labor Day Holiday is so ironic.  Those that are celebrating the most, have the least for which to celebrate.

This medium of communication will be used more for professional purposes…which in essence means philosophical purposes.

Having said that, it seems as if in the world of education, it is necessary to speak in a language many can understand while communicating concepts and ideals that many may not agree with, be able to handle, or strive to embrace.  The multi-platformed approach to communicating such concepts has become necessary in the current educational environment.

So now along with the e-mail address, class website, and twitter account, this blog will serve as another way to reach out and communicate…professionally, philosophically, and intelligently.