When I was a kid back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, rebellion was in fashion. The idea that your elders were lying to you was pervasive. “Never trust anyone over 30″ was a popular motto.
Social change was remarkably rapid — you can date women’s lib to 1969, not 1968. And gay lib can be dated precisely to the evening following Judy Garland’s funeral in July 1969.
Today, though, I’m fascinated by the credulity of younger, well-educated people toward their elders, and the endurance of their bad old ideas. Stephen Jay Gould, for example, has been dead and gone for years, but the mellifluous old blowhard is still constantly cited by the relatively young as a great thinker whose golden ideas must remain unchallenged by we lesser mortals doomed to live in this age of brass.
By way of analogy, I’m reminded of a passage from Michael Blowhard’s amazing review of last year’s movie hit “300.”
The film is another example of the way we’ve caved in culturally to adolescent values. Here’s how the story goes. Boomers were the first sizable generation of adolescents ever to have their adolescent tastes and pleasures catered to. This is really-truly true, by the way. Nothing like it had ever occurred on the face of the planet before. And — since anything that occurs to you in the teen years has a big effect — that’s playing with fire.
So the Boomers became experts in being adolescents, and in adolescent pleasures. When they got older and the time came to attend to the business of catering to the entertainment needs of the new crop of adolescents, Boomers proved much much better at it than their own elders had been. What they created for the new adolescent audience wasn’t just memorably exciting and full of promise, as post-WWII pop culture had been. The pop culture the Boomers created proved so exciting and satisfying for adolescents that for ensuing generations nothing beyond adolescence and adolescent values and pleasures exists any longer.
I think much the same holds true in the educational and intellectual realm. The 1960s ideas promoted by Boomers were essentially adolescent and thus when they gained control of the education system, change ground to a halt. They serve up puerile bilge to puerile young people, so everybody is satisfied. It’s a perpetual anti-motion machine.