Today's kids don't know how good they have it

A fellow was lamenting how history just isn't seriously taught anymore in school or college.  He was talking mostly about the history of the ideas that made America great.  That's important, and in my JROTC classroom before my retirement, we did talk about those very things as lessons in life.

In the last high school where I taught, the AP History teacher asked me to give a talk to her class on what war was like back in the days of the American Revolution.  I extended it to what life in general was like in those days.  I give Mrs. Brooks credit: she was as lefty as they come, but she trusted me to talk to her kids about a period in time that far back.

Among other things, I spoke about the kinds of living to be made besides farming 250 years ago.  Wheelwright.  Blacksmith.  Ferrier.  The kinds of living that didn't even exist yet: plumber.  Mechanic.  Electrician.  About how dusty and muddy the world was from lack of pavement.  About how rough roads were before MacAdam showed that the rocks in gravel should be less than a half-inch in size.

About how stinky the world was: Poor dentistry and oral hygiene.  Woolen clothing washed perhaps once a month because the cotton gin hadn't been invented yet to make cotton clothing feasible and plentiful, and because people often believed baths unhealthy.  About how two thirds of all newborns died before their fifth birthdays.  How death was an everyday part of life, and how crushingly hard it was just to survive, much less to flourish. Nobody of our economic class had any leisure to speak of, and nothing was easy.  School as we understand it didn't exist.

It was clear that none of these kids had ever read any real history or given thought to just how easy their own lives were and how lucky they were to be born in this era of plenty.  For a month or two after such talks, kids I didn't know would come up to me in the hallway or campus and say how much they enjoyed my contribution.  And that was just a single hour.

By not teaching our kids about the world as it was before America, we fail them in a serious way.  They have no basis of comparison and so think life has always had cars and videogames and iPhones and McDonald's.  It simply doesn't occur to them that the world didn't always have Dr. Pepper or Monster or a QuikTrip on the way home.  No sports arenas at all, because there wasn't the wealth, hence the leisure, to allow soccer or baseball or basketball to be invented.  Pro sports, central to modern life, wouldn't exist for nigh on another century.

Nor does it ever get shown to today's kids how vital America was to all the advances that gave us modern conveniences.  Germany led the 19th century in science, France in literature, England in commerce, but the political system of America gave the world an economic engine that produced unexampled wealth, and wealth gave us cars and jets and transplants and telephones and lights and plumbing and air conditioning and computers.  Lacking background, today's kids can't even imagine how lucky they are.  It is simply beyond their imaginative capacity to feel what life has been like for most of human history: the physical discomfort, the emotional anguish, the mental strain.

This being the case, small wonder they don't appreciate what they inherit.

I came of age during the Nixon years.  Richard Nixon once said his hope was to give America a generation of peace.  That sounded good at the time, when we were mired in Vietnam; but nearly 50 years later, I think it wrongheaded.  Peace amid plenty, as we have today, engenders laziness, lassitude, and ingratitude.  The U.S. military system that sent young men all over the world exposed them to that world.  It's only within my lifetime that most of the world has pulled itself out of the muck and mire.  Watching that happen sobers a man.  It gives perspective not otherwise attainable.

Today's education system virtually ensures that no kid will be exposed to anything that will provide perspective.  With greater resources than ever before, our kids have no sense of history.  We have allowed the Idiot Left to cut them off from their own background and leave them spouting nonsense they would reject out of hand with proper grounding.

We've raised them this way because we weren't aware of what was going on.

But now we are aware.  Time to do something about it, even if just inviting veterans to class to talk about life during "their" war.