The Past Is A Semi-Foreign Country; They Do Some Things Differently There, Others Not So Much
September 30, 2013, 04:10 AM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF
One of my recurrent shticks is to try to compare the dominant assumptions of the moment to those of the past. That`s because people have a hard time remembering the past, even the parts they lived through.

So, to try to present some objective evidence on what the past was like, here are the national high school debate topics from age 13-17:
1972-73   Resolved: That governmental financial support for all public and secondary education in the United States be provided exclusively by the federal government.
This is when I first read up on the social science work of Coleman, Jencks, Jensen, and others.
1973-74   Resolved: That the federal government should guarantee a minimum annual income to each family unit.
A similar topic with much overlap in social sciences. Both of these debate topics reflect specific panaceas of the era that have fallen out of fashion, but the general topics haven`t changed much at all in four decades. Obviously, they were both deeply entwined with race. And still are.

Thus, when I complain about how little has changed in thinking about race, education, and poverty, and how the latest fads tend to be rehashes of old ideas, I have a 1972-74 baseline in mind.
1974-75   Resolved: That the United States should significantly change the method of selection of presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
In contrast, there`s relatively little interest in this topic anymore. It`s tied into the kind of Good Government reformist progressivism that has declined in popularity with the rise of identity politics. Thus, the post-2000 effort to improve voting machines quickly got boring. The Republicans haven`t been able to dig up phony voting scandals with much traction, although the Democrats have had lots of luck getting elderly black people worked up that their votes are being taken away. But, in general, not much interest today even though it seems like a good topic — that`s the kind of thing that interests people these days, not technocratic improvements.
1975-76   Resolved: That the development and allocation of scarce world resources should be controlled by an international organization.

Today, this one sounds like it`s from Mars: Instead of nationalizing the means of production, should we internationalize the means of production? I mean, why not?

When I try to point out how much less suspicion there is of big business today than in the 1970s, this is a good example of what I`m talking about.