Does it count as history that John Lennon was shot on this date in 1980? It does for me.
I was a bit young to catch the first wave of Beatlemania, so I was not part of any grieving masses at my school that day. It was as if nobody even knew that something earthshaking had happened, that a huge voice had been silenced.
So Lennon died, and Reagan was elected. Soon it became so much cooler to care about money than about peace. Love? Pshaw! The domain of the naïve. I know that people love to hail Reagan as this icon of American-ness, but I always got knots in my stomach when he would speak. I’ve never really gotten over it, although lots of peers have morphed into staunch conservatism.
I’ve had to apply for a couple of forms of public assistance in my adult life. For a lot of that time, I would have fallen solidly within the category of the working poor. That may have something to do with why I never had the luxury of easing into a more conservative perspective—I would have had to vilify myself! There’s already enough of that to battle when one is struggling to feed one’s kids, trying to do things right, but not being able to pull those damned bootstraps up high enough. WAS a Working Class Hero really something to be? I always tried to behave as if it was. I succeeded, sometimes, I think, but I also carried a lot of shame about it. Truth be told, I still do.
Today, I tell my students that the reason I teach them Standard English is because it is the “language of money”— that, when they get older and go for a job interview or apply to college, they will want to sound smarter than the other people who want that job or that admission.
Still, they plan to fight each other after school, and threaten to punch each other in the face for cutting in line.
It turns out that I am slightly full of crap, when I think about it. While I’m teaching the curriculum which is designed to make these young Americans “competitive” in the world market, I don’t, in the end, want to teach “the language of money.” I don’t really even know the language of money. I don’t think the competitive language of money is worth much when you solve your problems by beating each other up.
Here’s what I want to teach (or at least teach first): all you need is love. War is over, if you want it. That is not in the curriculum. I get no points toward my evaluation score for that.