Posts Tagged ‘interest’
Why does humanity at large continue to plod along the same, old track? When we’re pubescent, we rebel against authority, though have the choice to acquiesce. When we’re middle aged, we have crises, though we are perfectly capable of avoiding the Mercedes dealership.
One Past Fallbrook will discuss immaturity, growing up and death, with particular interest in the idiosyncrasies of children, teenagers and adults. As a school photographer, I’m in a more-or-less unique position to deal with nearly every one of these age groups in every day of my work, and all of my friends need just as much maturing as I do.
There will be no dearth of material.
On the Tenure Track had a marvelous run, but as I turned away from education, my focus did as well. No doubt that by now readers had noticed a marked decline in on-topic blogging, if there are any readers left. Maybe I’ll return my focus to education, someday, when I’ve developed a thick skin for politics, unions and cattiness, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Then again, anything is possible, and it’s a long way to retirement.
Politics is universal, and a sham. So much of what we see is theatre put on for our benefit, as demonstrated by a British series from the 1980s called Yes, Minister.
Yes, Minister — and, eventually, Yes, Prime Minister — is a show about the internal workings of the British Department of Administrative Affairs, analogous to our Department of the Interior. As a satiric sitcom, this television show has to be a thousand times more realistic than the bunk you see on The West Wing.
Although Great Britain’s constitutional monarchy is an odd beast, and although its parliament is just different enough to warrant brushing up on comparative government before watching an episode or two, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deja vu as I breeze through the 38 or so episodes. I’ve seen all this intrigue somewhere before.
One of the great tropes of the series is when one of the characters gets into a monologue about how government really works, patiently explaining that the job of the civil service is to prevent the elected officials from messing up the government. The best official, the civil service frequently says, is a puppet. Later that episode, when main character and career puppet Jim Hacker is coerced into making an ultimately successful mid-term campaign for Prime Minister, his advisers tell him exactly what he has to do.
If asked if he wants to be Prime Minister, the generally acceptable answer for a politician is that while he does not seek the office, he has pledged himself to the service of his country, and that should his colleagues persuade him that that is the best way he can serve, he might reluctantly have to accept the responsibility, whatever his personal wishes might be.
Hacker does this.
Hacker: The next Prime Minister would have to be someone you could trust. An old friend.
Duncan: Do you mean you?
Hacker: I have absolutely no ambition in that direction.
Duncan: You do mean you.
Eric: So Duncan would get No. 10. My God.
Hacker: Not if I can help it. [takes a drink] Cheers.
Eric: You don’t mean you?
Hacker: Me? My children are at the age where my wife and I would like to spend much more time with each other.
Eric: You do mean you.
I don’t know about you, but I saw more than a little bit of Fred Thompson, whose campaign peaked just before he announced his candidacy. Before that, he had no ambition. He wanted to spend time with his family.
He wanted to be the head of government, no doubt about it.
The eeriest scene involved what turns out to be Jim Hacker’s campaign speech. It’s full of melodrama, patriotism, triviality and overdone pomp. In other words, though him crying out against repressed British sausage will sound foreign to our ears, his rhetoric will remain very, very familiar.
Why is it that British shows always seem so American?
My immediate reaction to much of what I read online or in the paper is usually of interest, disgust or fatigued exasperation. Even when my reaction is a combination of all three, I usually don’t also think of a movie I haven’t seen in a long time.
Then I read about those recent wild, graduation parties, opulently celebrating success and promotion — from the 8th grade. Interest; disgust; fatigued exasperation. Then, I thought:
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen The Incredibles.
Having seen animation from both sides of the Pacific, and a lot of it, I have some authority to say that among the Pacific-sized morass of crappy cartoons, The Incredibles stands out. Even years afterward, it remains one of the few that entirely avoids typical conventions: journeys of self-discovery, boneheaded comic relief henchmen and breaking into song. It’s also one of the few movies with substantive depth.
The Incredibles had novel, distinct themes, and, like few other animated movies, had them in the plural sense. The most central theme went to the effect that “if everyone is incredible, then no one is.”
When I first saw the movie, it resonated. It shouldn’t surprise me that it also resonates with the idea of full-blown eighth-grade graduations.
In the last few weeks at Community Middle School in Plainsboro, N.J., year-end activities have included a formal dance; the Cameo awards, an Oscars-like ceremony for students in the television and video production classes; a trip to Hersheypark in Pennsylvania; and a general awards assembly. On Thursday evening there was a salute to the entire class. On Friday, the class picnic.
Community Middle’s veneration of its young teenagers is neither unique nor particularly excessive (the dance was in the gym). Across the country, in urban and suburban school districts, in rich communities and impoverished ones, eighth-grade celebrations now mimic high school or even college graduations: proms, the occasional limousine, renditions of “Pomp and Circumstance,” dignitaries speechifying and students in caps and gowns loping across the stage for diplomas. …
In many towns the sophistication and expense of the graduations are surging. The Internet teems with teenagers seeking comments about dresses and hairstyles for year-end events. Party planners, caterers and invitation designers market themselves for eighth-grade parties.
The students at the middle school in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., an affluent community, enjoy a dinner cruise with a D.J. around Manhattan. And in the stricken schools of Chicago’s South Side, Mr. Cowling said, “It’s a big business event: everyone has on a new outfit, manicures, pedicures, the hair” for a ceremony that can last two hours. “And then,” he said, “kids go to 5, 10 parties in the neighborhood, in hotels.”
What damage do we do to our kids, when we celebrate moving from the eighth grade to the ninth? How do they develop a sense of distinction, when everyone is distinguished? Do we really want to devalue success, for the sake of keeping everyone feeling good about themselves? Why feel good about doing the absolute minimum?
Ego egalitarianism is the wrong path. We need to encourage success and recognize failure, rather than give everyone that gold star of triviality. If not, we might end up like Kurt Vonnegut foretold, Madeline L’Engle affirmed, and Bob “Mr. Incredible” Barr ranted.
It is not a graduation. He is moving from the fourth grade to the fifth.
It’s a ceremony.
It’s psychotic. They keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity.
Celebrating marginal success encourages marginal success. That’s bad any way you look at it.
What are the appropriate lengths for celebrating an eighth grade graduation, so that it doesn’t encourage marginal success? How much is overkill, and how much is ideal?