Many questions about the 1960s are actually rooted in the 1950s, so keep that in mind when asked about racial tensions, shifting political dynamics, Cold War anxieties, or anything related to rebellion against cultural norms or “their parents’ generation.” Avoid oversimplifying the 1950s as the sum of its clichés while recognizing that the perception of homogeneity was enough to generate both the pressure to conform and the desire to rebel – sometimes within the same subgroups.
In reality, the 1950s weren’t quite as universally unified or prosperous as they appeared. Still, it was close enough to give the 1960s something to challenge – a lifestyle and presumed set of values for the youth of the era to reject. (It’s difficult to rebel against the mainstream if there’s no mainstream.) If nothing else, the 1950s made the 1960s possible. The decade became the “ordinary world” for a whole new hero’s journey.
I teach in a district that’s had some struggles in recent years. We’re majority-minority and 100% of my kids are “free and reduced lunch” (mostly “free”). Add in eighteen months of not having real school and the fact that most of the schools feeding into mine are already under state “control” (an ironic term by any measure), and it’s easy to grow discouraged. There aren’t always those “breakthrough” moments you count on to stay motivated - personally or academically.
All the more reason to build a few monuments to the encouraging or amusing episodes which do occur from time to time. Here are three from this past week.
The British had for years flirted with the idea of building a canal right through Central America to allow their massive navy easier access from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Over time, the U.S. started thinking maybe that actually wasn’t such a bad idea – although they, of course, assumed American merchants and military vessels as the primary beneficiaries. Neither side was ready to push ahead with such an ambitious project, but each began worrying that perhaps the other would – perhaps cutting them out in the process.
In the meantime, they at least agreed on the most natural location of such a venture. The geography, the political dynamics, even the catchy name once completed:
The “Nicaragua Canal.”
Several years ago, talk show host Jimmy Fallon did a wonderful bit with planted audience members in which they argued about which historical treaties were the coolest. The humor was built on the relative obscurity and banality of the treaties being discussed contrasted with the passion shown by the faux audience members. In other words, it was engaging because the subject matter was presumed to be so boring that no one could possibly care about it that much – and yet, they did.
It’s generally much easier to spot the fallacy and irrationality in others than to be truly aware of our own. While most of us will confess to such imperfections in theory, we rarely accept specific examples when pointed out to us about ourselves.
Like many people, I’ve been trying my hand at freelancing here and there for extra income over the past few years. In my case, it’s nothing glorious – just writing (or rewriting) web content explaining the benefits of regular eye exams, how a reverse mortgage works, or where Eddie Murphy’s net worth ranks him compared to other actors or comics.
I’m not magical or a genius or better than every other educator out there. (I mean, I’m better than a lot of them… but that’s really not the point.) What I am is available and willing, with a decent track record and a belief in most teachers’ potential vs. the realities beating them down week after week. It’s something I’d like to spend more time and energy on, in fact.
So here’s what I’m offering - for those of you still kinda interested, or at least still reading.
1. The Equal Access Act of 1984 prohibited any public school which permitted “non-curricular” clubs to meet on school property from picking and choosing which clubs they allowed based on ideologies or beliefs. The trick was figuring out what counted as “non-curricular.”
2. Bridget Mergens was a student at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1985, she asked her principal for permission to form a Christian club at the school.
3. The school said no, arguing that organizations like Chess Club and Scuba Club were essentially (if not directly) curriculum-related in that they were extensions of the sorts of things the school promoted as a whole, and thus inadequate to trigger the requirements of the act. Bridget didn’t buy it.
Eventually, the case ended up in the Supreme Court. You probably won't be surprised how it turned out.
Bridget Mergens was a student at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1985, she asked her principal for permission to form a Christian club at the school. They’d read and discuss the Bible, pray together, and enjoy what those on the inside call “fellowship.” Membership would be open to anyone, however, regardless of their beliefs – because, you know… school.
The school said no. That was a mistake.