Mr. Van Orden talks a lot. I am an eyewitness to lectures which he has given on multiple occasions on why the now sucks so much more than the then.
Among his reasons for this opinion is that back in the day he had the time to teach sometimes two or three electives just for pleasure, including Vietnam Diplomacy and Classic American Literature. Back in the day not only did he have the time to take a dozen or so students to Washington D.C. on a school-sponsored trip, but his students also had the time to complete the required reading including the federalist papers and to complete a project displaying their family genealogy back to when their ancestors first arrived in America. Apparently when he was in high school it was not uncommon for he and his best friends to have conversations about their favorite works of Shakespeare. See, these were the reasons for why the past rocked.
He also has reasons for why the modern world sucks. Literacy rate in American high school kids is way behind other countries. In fact, American kids are way worse than most other developed countries in basic math and science classes. Studies have shown that kids are better at accessing info but we are useless at understanding the information. Of course, this is the worst rate of long-term employment since the Great Depression. Constant media onslaught shortens attention spans and lowers self-esteem.
Mr. Van Orden is not the only one. My Dad is convinced that America is becoming a nation of homogenized wussies. Mrs. Mayer woes about how overpopulation is causing the loss of culture. Mr. Hentschel describes in the most objective way he can how the overuse of antibiotics has created a selecting environment for viruses, thus leading to drug-resistant viruses. Of course, global warming is pretty much on everyone's minds all the time.
Global warming is the thing that got me thinking about the baby boomers. Obviously the scientists who first discovered global warming had to be of the baby boomer generation. It made me furious when I imagined the moment when the idea first came to whoever first thought about it. How could they be surprised? How could they not know this was bound to happen?
Then I started thinking about the causes for all those other problems. Being naught but a germ line cell, I could not be exactly held accountable for the fact that I was born into an environment in which advertising had created as unsurpassed clutter about the American psyche. I have yet to have any say in the balance of the federal budget or the inner workings of the American Teachers Union. The Baby Boomer generation is where the problem lies.
Wait, wait, wait! The baby boomer generation? The same baby boomer generation that was somehow wise enough to allot their time in such a way as to go to Washington D.C., research their entire family genealogy, and read Shakespeare for leisure on top of all the other trials of high school? That baby boomer generation?
I don't know about you, but I have a hard time believing that. I work really hard. I'm in three AP classes. I'm composing 2 string quartets and a third jazz song just to get into college. I'm in jazz band, the main stage play, and I have a girlfriend. I'm not saying that to brag (okay, maybe a little), but mostly I am saying this because I am so sick of seeing, reading, and hearing educated adults depress themselves over just how screwed our generation is. And it especially makes me mad when Mr. Van Orden talks about it because he makes it sound like its my generation's fault.
I do not think our problems are any worse than those of any other generation. I'm not doubting that our generation is totally screwed up, but that doesn't mean we're hopeless. (Not to be a brat or anything, but the baby boomers were way more racist, sexist, cigarette-smoking, and violent than we are.)
My ultimate point is that our generation gets to experience possibly the most terrifying and exciting event in natural history since the dawn of man: global warming. When global warming really heats up, it will matter not how much better at math Chinese kids are than American kids. That is not an excuse to say that we should not try to be as good at math as we can be.
But I think the baby boomers would do a lot better to help our generation overcome our problems than to count out all the things that will doom us. The basic problems are very simple and have been known for a long time. People consume too much. Education is bad. The economy is bad. There's no time to waste.