New Year’s eve is also a time for looking back—a bit of nostalgia is appropriate.
So how many of you remember “American as mom and apple pie.” But I would like to suggest that public schools* were almost up there in the short list of what defined us as Americans.** So, maybe mom and apple pie are also on their way out.
Change isn’t always good. The odd fact, for someone like me, is that the CEO’S of the world have become the biggest boosters of globalism, internationalism, and as a result, probably less jingoistic than the average American. Folks like me were always presuming that internationalism would be a characteristic of the working classes of the world (who had nothing to lose but their chains). We could not have been more wrong. The internationalism of the corporate elite surely has however had revolutionary implications. It changed the relationship of corporations to their local, state or national communities— why be concerned with them when a company can easily up and move?
As a result, corporate leaders are not easily taken in by nostalgia. But they do recall some features of the “good old days” when there was no welfare state, no social security, no labor movement, no 40 hour work limits plus overtime pay, and African-Americans were officially second class…. sort-of citizens. It is hard to remember, however, that not so long ago we all also openly admired the idea that the rich pay a higher proportion of their wealth to the common good. Or that when we had wars, everybody had to make proportionate sacrifices. A draft army, as well as higher taxes during wartime, not to mention rationing etc. were deemed “obvious.” The contemporary corporate world do not however have any nostlgia for such features of the good old days. We all pick and choose.
But private education—except for urban Catholics—was rare until almost yesterday and pretty much limited to the wealthy “snobs” of the Northeast (Philadelphia, Boston, New York, plus New England boarding schools). Apple pie, Mom and Public Education stood for all that was America at its best when I was growing up.
I am still for all three, but as we begin to lose public education I fear for the other two also.
My New Year’s wish is that more of my fellow citizens wake up to realize what is at stake and demand that we cherish all three. A toast to “apple pie, motherhood and public schools” of America. ***
*Note: public schooling (American style) has always referred not just to who pays for it, but who has a voice over it. All taxpayers pay for the armaments industry, but they don’t assume that they have much voice in the decisions made by Boeing.
**Yes, yes–“democracy and all that” counted as America too—but on another list of conceptual ideas/ideals of a quite different order. Some might claim they overlap—is there another nation that celebrates Mother’s Day and eats as much apple pie?
***Life these days often seems to be a satire on itself, so I hope readers realize that there is some “tongue in cheek” in this New Year’s reflection.
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