The Big Fool Says to Push On

40 years later and this is still powerful stuff.

A few years ago, a friend of mine who’d been teaching 8th grade for 10 yrs decided to quit and look for a job in a high school. When I asked him why, he said, “The kids are always 13. Every year they’re 13. They never grow up and they never seem to learn anything.”

He was kidding but I knew what he meant. I feel that way now. When the Viet Nam War ended, I thought – I think we all thought – that at least now it was over and it would be impossible for the US to ever make a mistake like that again. We had, we were sure, learned our lesson.

40 years later it’s clear that the new class of 13-yr-olds is making precisely the same stoopid, deadly mistake the last class of 13-yr-olds made. As if that earlier class, that earlier mistake, that earlier foolish self-destruction, had never existed.

Looked at from the standard angle, history sometimes seems to be a linear progression – a long learning curve but learning nonetheless. But from another angle, if you take away the technological advances, what have we really learned? Not much, it would appear. There have been brief spasms when grown-ups were in charge for a while and what they did while they were around lasted generations, at least as a foundation. But on top of that foundation we have layered stupidity after stupidity, often the same ones.

McKinley invaded the Philippines, Reagan invaded Grenada. Johnson started a pointless war in Viet Nam based on lies and paranoid fantasies about the Soviets, Bush started a pointless war in Iraq based on lies, greed for oil, paranoid fantasies about Islamo-fascists, and some insane religious nonsense about how he was supposed to start Armageddon so Christ could come back. He may have added a couple of new rationalizations but in the end, he’s doing the same thing for the same reasons – playing god because he’s desperately afraid and because, wildly arrogant, he thinks he can get away with it.

Every 40 years or so, it appears that the old class moves on and the new class comes in and nothing really changes, nothing is ever really learned. One class may be marginally more intelligent or more social or more studious or more athletic than the others but they’re all still 13, they all seem to know only what 13-yr-olds know and history be damned (along with all adults).

In fine, I feel like I’m living in Lord of the Flies. It’s not a good feeling.

One Response to “The Big Fool Says to Push On”

  1. I feel the same way as your friend, only I have taught middle school, high school, community college, and university. The ages change, but they don’t seem to learn a thing. Or care to. And it seems to be getting worse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook