By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
In a memory book presented to the graduating seniors of my high school class, one notation from a friend predicted I would write for a magazine entitled “The World in Which We Live.”
I’m both fortunate and unfortunate to have witnessed many changes in the world in which I live.
The expressions on my grandchildren’s faces, however, when I remind them that they have nothing over me is, to say the least, interesting.
Since my granddaughter Hannah lives with me, she is most frequently the subject of my “old school” tales. Only a picture of her expressions could describe some of her reactions.
Aside from the technological advances of the past half-century, my generation is ahead of the game in survival skills. For one, we know how to do basic math without a calculator. Throw down a piece of paper and pencil, and most of us Baby Boomers can compute the taxes and costs of items without turning to a computer, cell phone app or calculator.
We learned how to type on the obsolete manual typewriters that also taught self-control and pain control when our inexperienced fingers would slide between the hard metal keys and skin the tops of our fingers or break a fingernail in the process. We learned how to use correction tape to cover a mistake, then go back and type the correct letter in its place. We also learned about “home keys” and how to maximize your typing experience by moving the eight forefingers across the keys and using the thumbs for the space bar.
Now students are using keyboards in Kindergarten and expected to type papers in elementary school without having the first class in HOW to type until they are in high school. Students today use the “hunt and peck” method defined by those who never took an official typing or keyboarding class. In a rush-rush society of high technology, it seems only logical that students would be taught efficiency in the use of technology, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Ditto with cursive writing. How can children officially sign their name when they are never taught how to write in cursive — only how to print? Those who like to experiment with different fonts can sometimes find some that resemble the outdated cursive style, but no one will be able to read it if they do.
Fashion is another area where the younger generation are amazed when we “golden oldies” recite names of clothing items by other names. I can remember when capris were called peddle pushers in the late 1950s and 1960s. The skorts now worn were known as culottes in my middle school years, and the wedges of today’s shoe styles were known in my day as platforms. We wore cowboy boots, but usually with jeans, not with frilly short skirts. Work boots were something men wore in the woods, pasture, and job, not an item that women wore with shorts. It was considered sleazy to let anyone see your bra straps in my childhood — now you wear different colored bras with spaghetti strap shirts so everyone can see that you indeed have on a bra!
I am a relic of the “old school” — the classic days in which your shoes, purse and jewelry matched your clothing rather than contrasted with it. Today, all that matters is if your purse and shoes are an expensive name brand and neither has to match whatever you are wearing. Blue jeans must be name-brand and range up to $200 or more per pair, topped off with a T-shirt with a price tag of $40 or more. Add in a pair of name brand tennis shoes priced at $80 or more and you’re considered “dressed up” and right in style.
Fully knowing that my opinion reflects my age, I cannot resist the urge to inform people that blue jeans, T-shirt and tennis shoes — regardless of the price tag — is simply that: blue jeans, T-shirt and tennis shoes. And that, my friends, is NOT dressed up.
I can also remember when education was about learning new things and exploring ideas rather than drilling material on state mandated tests into a child’s head, then moving on to the next section of test material. I recall when field trips and class-related clubs were instrumental in education and when teachers were rated by their interaction with parents and students rather than just by how well their students performed on a test.
The days of playing under a large shade tree and creating your own games has been replaced by electronic devices that offer everything from a camera to the Internet and the creativity of the outdoors is reserved only for summer camps, family camping trips, or environmental classes.
The ‘old school’ folks know how to grow their own food, can it and save it for another time rather than run out to a fast food restaurant or stick a cardboard container in a microwave. We know how to survive without electricity for a few hours, or a few days, and we remember what it was like to sit in the sun and dry our hair without an electric hair dryer and style it without a flat iron or curling iron. We know how to use a clothes iron to press our clothes without a dryer and we can check our car’s oil without a certified mechanic nearby.
Watching the younger generation struggle without the technological equipment incorporated in every aspect of life today, I have to believe that ‘old school’ gave us a lot more common knowledge than any computer, e-Reader, iPod or satellite TV will ever be able to provide.