Before you start calling me a crotchety old codger, I am going to follow up this article with another one listing seven things that are better now than they were all those years ago. I’ve been thinking for some time about how my world has changed so dramatically. I have many fond memories of the place where I grew up (Savannah, Georgia), and here is my take on how life was better (in some ways) when I was kid … way back then.
1. Kids played outside
When was the last time you saw a bunch of kids playing outside? Maybe you have; I haven’t seen that in ages. When was the last time you saw kids play a pickup game of baseball or football? I haven’t seen that in years.
Some of my favorite memories are getting all the neighborhood kids together and playing two-hand touch football, or even tackle football (without any protective equipment). Yeah, that was dangerous, but man — was it fun! Nobody went to the hospital, thank God. I think moms were tougher back then because I know our moms would tell us, “Don’t come inside unless you’re bleeding or on fire.” And nobody would go inside until the street lights came on.
I could get on my bike and ride for miles, or go exploring in the woods near the marsh (hunting for snakes and lizards and turtles, oh my!) and no one would bother us. We were completely safe. Those were the days.
2. Education was better
In the 1970s, I was actually taught phonics as a separate class in my school, from the second to the fifth grade. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton said a goal of his Department of Education was that every child would be able to read by the fourth grade. Heck, everyone in my school could read at the end of the first grade! (Do they even teach phonics anymore? It probably went the way of cursive handwriting, I suppose.)
When I was in the fourth grade, every boy and girl knew the names of every major leader in the American Civil War, when the war took place, what colors each side wore, and the names of the major battles. Most of the high school students I’ve talked to recently don’t know any of that information.
We actually learned American history… crazy stuff like the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. We read classical literature (I think that is still taught), and I remember in my public high school we had as electives two Bible classes (Old Testament and New Testament) as English literature. Those classes were two of the most popular classes in my public high school.
There was no political correctness. You could pray (shock! horror!). We had Christmas trees and menorahs… and no one was offended! We had Christmas concerts and Easter break! Again, no one was offended (and yes, we had people of other faiths… they acted like adults and were not offended).
Before I graduated, we had a baccalaureate service that was entirely voluntary and it met in the school cafeteria. A local pastor gave the speech and we all prayed. No one was harmed in the making of that service.
Here is a great video poking fun at the political correctness that has overtaken modern education:
We had no school massacres, although there were students who brought their shotguns to school, loaded up in the gun racks of their pickup trucks. What changed?
When I was in college, I minored in political science. We debated all sorts of things… politely! Sure, it was vigorous debate, but as adults, we could handle people who disagreed with us. No big deal. Today, however, if you are not politically correct, you are not only shunned, you might even be expelled. Or you might be physically harassed right out of the school.
Just look at how the “tolerant,” “diverse,” multicultural mob handles really mean people like Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Ann Coulter. Their very lives were threatened, and all they wanted to do was talk!
3. Our health was better (almost)
This one could go both ways. In some ways, our health options have improved vastly over the years, but in this article, I am specifically talking about obesity. My wife and I often comment on this. When we were kids, there was usually just one overweight boy and one overweight girl in our class. How about today? Today, try to find kids who are NOT overweight. Our nation certainly has a childhood obesity problem. Our adult population is drowning in obesity as well.
Whenever you go to the grocery store or the department store, count the number of people you see under the age of 50 scooting around on one of those scooters… and not because they have a broken leg. I am amazed every time I see two or three or four people far younger than me (I am 56) scooting around because they are so obese. It is sad. It’s tragic. Something has changed in our diet and lifestyle… and it’s not good.
4. Sports were not politicized
I used to be an NFL junkie. I was an Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins fan forever (I actually met Don Shula when I was a kid!). I met my wife and was forced to “convert” to being a Cleveland Browns fan (I know, I know… it hurt to cheer for the Browns).
I cannot watch professional sports anymore. It seems to me that all of it has become politicized. From the players who are taking a knee during the national anthem to whatever the latest “star” thinks about the latest president to the gay football player or the gay cheerleader… I am just really turned off by all of this infecting something that used to be an escape for millions of Americans. Can’t we just watch a ball game without politics being injected into EVERYTHING?
5. People dressed better
I’m sure I’ll get some hate mail on this one. I clearly remember going to the grocery store or the mall in the 1970s and seeing people take some pride in how they dressed. Yes, I know the ’70s were known for some disgusting fashions like leisure suits, platform shoes, and bell bottoms. But we still took pride in good grooming and wearing clean clothes.
Is it just me? Every time I go to a certain department store these days I am treated to people wearing their pants down to their knees, or wearing pajamas that are falling down. I am really sick of seeing people’s butt cracks, folks. I also do not want to see people’s bellies hanging out. If you want tattoos and piercings everywhere, fine, go for it. But I see people who apparently have enough money for gobs of tattoos and an armory of metal going through their face, but not enough money for a belt to pull up their pants.
Can we bring good taste and pride in our grooming back? I’m all for it! Here are a couple of good videos from some gentlemen who are trying to bring it back:
6. We had a better work ethic
To be honest, I don’t have any statistical data to back this up. All I have are personal stories from employers I talk to on a regular basis. I am a chaplain for a food service company and a steel galvanizing plant and I also talk to plenty of employers in other businesses, and they all say the same thing: it is amazing how people (especially young people under the age of 40) simply quit on the job without any warning.
Time and time again I hear the same story about a young person who does not give two weeks’ notice before they move on to another job. They simply quit! Many times they give no notice — they don’t even show up! I was stunned when I heard this!
My father and mother would have killed me if I ever did such a thing. They drilled it into my head that I was to do my job and half of someone else’s. I was to make myself indispensable! If I had to quit, I was to give my employer two weeks’ notice. Sadly, from what I hear, this has not been taught to recent generations.
7. We had fewer distractions
We had a television set with three channels. That’s it. If you got to see the show, great. If not, you’d have to wait for the reruns later in the year. I know, we have much greater variety in our media these days, and that can be a great blessing (especially when it comes to getting alternative sources of news).
However, I think these days we live in a “distracted age.” My cell phone is constantly going off. Sales calls, messages that can wait, alarms. We have 24/7 cable news that tries to hook us on the latest crisis (the crisis usually lasts only 72 hours). We have texting (which some of us think we can do while we drive), Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and video games — even on our phones — to vie for our attention. Our cell phones practically run our lives, it seems, and they track us wherever we go.
Can’t we just go someplace without our phone? Can’t we go a whole day or week without Facebook? Can’t we wait to answer that text until we have parked the car?
I remember a world in which the phone and TV set did not dominate us. I try to set limits today on how much modern media and technology dominate me today — I often silence my phone or even drive around without one on me. My world, for just a short period of time, is much more tranquil. I am able to focus better and I am reminded of a world I used to know, some forty years ago.