The Lost Generation(s)

Extent of Silk Route/Silk Road. Red is land ro...

Extent of Silk Route/Silk Road. Red is land route and the blue is the sea/water route. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


My co-author Jessica is doing a series on her blog about the Eastern or Syriac church. It is a very fascinating look at a part of Christianity that few even knew existed, I was somewhat aware of it but had no idea of the extent or importance of the eastern church. Her series starts here. But what relevance does that have to this post? This.


You all know that I find history fascinating, and history about something that I have little knowledge of, even more so. In her introduction Jess touches on some of the most romantic legends we have, of Marco Polo and the Silk Road and such things. I can remember as a kid reading of the romance of Marco Polo’s travels, I’ll bet many of you can too.


My first loves in history were the Plantagenets and the American Civil War, the first from Thomas B. Costain‘s historical romances, and the second from Bruce Catton‘s Centennial History, as well as his trilogy on the Army of the Potomac. I suppose I was about in 3d or 4th grade when I started reading these, and by the time I was out of high school, I probably had well over a hundred books on history, and a lifelong passion. That’s pretty much what reading can do for you.


In my mind’s eye I can still see William the Marshall, Earl of Pembroke and one of the most honorable knights to have ever lived, negotiating with Stephan Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, on the field at Runnymede. He knew perfectly well that the Barons led by Langton were right but recognizing that his oath and honor required him to serve the King, did so. And did it so well that he came away with the respect of both friend and foe, to die as Regent of England. He is buried as a simple Templar Knight at the Temple Church in London.


I can also see Mr. Lincoln asking McClellan if since he wasn’t using them at the moment he could “borrow the Army of the Potomac” for the Battle of Antietam, and watching those long dusty columns of blue swaying along the road.


Does this have relevance to my life. Many would say no. But, I say it does, in both cases, from Pembroke I learned about honor and keeping promises, even when it is unpopular to do so, and from Catton I learned the lengths men will go to be free. Good lessons to learn.


In a sense this is preamble, talking about what fascinates me but, in a very real sense it isn’t. Yesterday, I posted a video that spoke of what our schools are teaching today, It was very sad to watch. One of my favorite bloggers made this comment.


I was fortunate that I went to a school where our papers were graded and awarded gold, silver, blue, green and red stars (and the biggest shock, gasp), some papers got no stars at all and the child who submitted it was asked to re-do his or her work to bring it up to a minimal standard. Then I went to a college whose curriculum was based on the “Great Books”. (They’re still great, by the way). The other day, I asked one of the children who attends a public high school very near my home if he had ever read anything by Homer. He responded, “I didn’t know the Simpsons had a book out.” (Sigh). There’s a lot of work to be done.


She’s obviously correct but, where do we start. As I stated we’ve lost an entire generation or two,  maybe three to the crap we teach now. I can also remember about 15 years ago, my stepdaughter asked for help with her history homework, and trying to be fair, I read the chapter she was working from. Well, actually, I tried to. The prose was so poorly written and turgid (it also was inaccurate) that I could barely read it coherently. I had a chat later with her history teacher, a very nice lady, who told me that was the best textbook they could find.

If so, and I have no reason to doubt her, it says very bad things about our historians, and I have doubts that I could find kinder things to say in other subjects. I learned far more real history from good historical romances when I was young than from history courses, of course once my interest was piqued, I found other real histories of the period. But, especially in history, there is no reason that it shouldn’t be a fascinating story. Because it is. It’s our story.

The story I told you about Pembroke above, in addition to how a man of honor acts; teaches you a lot about the basic freedoms of Americans today, that day at Runnymede is the first time that the divine right of king‘s was checked by the populace in arms. Similarly, if you read Jess’s pieces on the Eastern Church, you will learn a very great amount about Christianity. And for that matter, if you read here, you know that we often tie historical events to what is happening today.

But maybe the advantage we have here is, most of us here are in our 50s or so, and had the advantage of an education that taught us to think, not just regurgitate propaganda. That is why we understand the founders, who were educated in the same way (although probably better).

The internet is an awesome resource, following the links Jess gave yesterday, I learned more about the eastern church than probably 90% of our clergy know, plus a lot about the Silk Road.

But like everything, the internet can be abused, if you spend your time playing Farmville, you’ll learn nothing, if you spend it following your interests, whether they are history, or science, or math, or engineering, or anything else, you can become one of the best educated people that have ever walked the earth and get this-the only cost is your time. It’s truly a wondrous world.

Our schools were designed to produce cogs for the industrial machine we were. We are not that anymore, as Alvin Toffler said, we have become an information society. What is needed is critical thinking, not least about why something will objectively work or not work. Our schools are providing us with automatons, at best, who know how to game the system, and in the last analysis, do what they are told.

If we don’t change that we will become an anachronism and totally irrelevant, ‘a drawer of water and a hewer of wood’ for our betters, who were taught to think.

We would be very well advised to learn to teach in much the same way as Socrates did before that happens. Because if we don’t the age of

western civilization will end with our generation.




About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

5 Responses to The Lost Generation(s)

  1. JessicaHof says:

    Thank you for the mention my dearest friend. I hope that somehow we can continue to pass on knowledge to the younger generation – as a refugee from teaching, I may be guilty of desertion 😦


    • NEO says:

      Perhaps, in one sense but you are certainly teaching me a lot, does that count? 🙂

      Still I wish I knew so much more about how to fix it. :-\


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