I am becoming one of those old codgers who does not much want to adapt. It was hard enough to stop writing with a pen, and get a word processor, but even when I do try to be “modern”, I am on the low side of the learning-curve. By the time I have finally figured out how to use the latest gadget, it is already outdated. Then I have to put up with some juvenile looking at my computer, and saying, in an unnecessarily haughty manner, “Oh, you are still using one of those?”
It is for this reason I have stated that I would rather work on becoming what I call “a cantankerous anachronism”. Back when the automobile was invented there were apparently old men who sneered at the new invention, and said, “Get a horse.” I want to be the modern version. When young men, wet behind the ears, get haughty with me, I want to tell them, “Get a pen.”
Apparently, during World War Two, in certain places, there simply was no available fuel for cars, and for a time people had to go back to using horses. The young were utterly hapless, for they had no idea what to do. The old men were in their glory.
It might happen again, and I might be in my glory, showing the young how to use this thing called, “a fountain pen.”
But I don’t count on it. Life is a fresh breeze, fully of newness, and the dust gets blown away. I am of the Yankee, an outdated people, eradicated by progress. I should be a good sport about stepping aside.
The thing that makes me cantankerous is that the young, wise in their way, are such imbeciles about things that do not change, and that they perhaps should ask their elders about.
For example, take the subject of sex and drugs. My generation felt the preceding generation new nothing, but they did. Now I face a generation who thinks I don’t know, but I do.
I am fortunate because I did listen to cantankerous anachronisms. Not that I took their advice. Just because an elder has been a fool should not deprive me of my right to be a fool. (Especially when it comes to sex.) But later on I could say, “That old geezer knew what he was talking about.”
I am also lucky because the men in my family tree became fathers late in life. Some families can squeeze five generations into a century, but in my family we fit only two in the nineteenth century, and, in the case of my oldest brother, only two generations happened in the twentieth century as well. He has a son, born in the twenty-first century, who can say, “My Great-great-grandfather was born in 1850, and wanted to enlist in the Civil War as a drummer boy”. Meanwhile my grandson was held in the arms of his great-great-grandfather(on my wife’s side), who was born in 1917.
My own Great-great-grandfather was born in 1797. Think of the expanse of time involved! My Grandfather could not only talk about how his Dad experienced the Civil War, but could talk about how his Dad remembered his Grandfather complaining about how the young just didn’t understand what mattered when the USA was only two decades old!
Then just imagine me meeting a twenty-five-year-old history teacher at my children’s school, who thinks I don’t know a thing about history, because I have never been to collage.
Any wonder I might choose to be cantankerous?
What bothers me most about young teachers is that they seem to never put themselves in the shoes of the people they talk about. Their talk often belittles and scorns. But they could never do what the people they describe did. “They who cannot do, teach.”
Personally I don’t think anyone under age fifty should be allowed to be a teacher of anything but simple grammar and arithmetic. History? To have a young person teach History is like having a ten-year-old girl teach of breast-feeding.
To teach history you must have an acquaintance with the people who made it. I have toiled the soil with the farmers, but even if you lack the luck of such toil you should have at least become acquainted with farmers. I have sailed the waters with the fishermen, but even if you lack that luck you should have at least become acquainted with such seafarers. I have brought livestock I cared for to be slaughtered, and have looked my hamburger in the eye before eating. If I become a vegetarian it will be because of that. However many who claim they have a right to teach (and that I do not have the right) have not become acquainted with the food on their table. “They who cannot do, teach.” But you must have an acquaintance with those who do do, if you are to teach.
New England is no tropical paradise, and people have had to be tough to scratch a living from its landscape. I learned something of what I know the hard way, because I didn’t listen to my elders, however I also did listen to cantankerous anachronisms of the past.
I have learned what the Abernaki learned, before they were reduced to an echo. I have learned what the Yankee learned, before they too were reduced.
To learn what I know you don’t have to be Abernaki, or Yankee. But you must not be “Progressive.”
Why not? Because Progressives are too busy updating, to heed cantankerous anachronisms like myself.