Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Old School

Sad to say, but "old school" is in decline. Some might think this is a good thing, but it's not. To me, when you say someone is "old school", that isn't a pejorative but rather the highest compliment that can be paid. Old school means doing things the right way, even when it may not be fashionable. Old school means having principles and sticking by them. It means no shortcuts, not being afraid to follow your conscience, not worrying about being popular, and no apologies. Old schoolers believe in family, God and country. They believe in education for its own sake. Hard work is what they know, and they are not tolerant of laziness. They are respectful and polite to others in an increasingly hostile world.

I grew up in an old school world where there was little tolerance for self-pity and no professional victims who blamed everyone for their problems except themselves. If you wanted to eat and have a roof over your head, you worked. As I think back, many of the jobs people did were hard. There were still ice boxes around in those days. Before electric refrigeration people used wooden boxes that held blocks of ice to keep food from spoiling. These blocks were delivered by muscular men who drove trucks and delivered the ice blocks from the ice house to their destinations. I remember they wore burlap sacks over the shoulder onto which they hefted the heavy blocks using a large metal pincers. Oftentimes they delivered to second or third floor apartments. The work was brutal, but they did it with dignity. This is how they fed their families. They were old school.

For many neighborhood people, education was something of a luxury. They had to quit school and go to work to help out the family. It's no wonder that they vowed their kids would not suffer the same fate. Many dipped into meager incomes and found the few dollars to send their children to parochial schools. Others relied on the public schools which were exceptional in those days. Kids were encouraged to learn and parents allowed the schools to do their jobs without the incessant interference teachers must put up with today. At graduations, you would see these old school parents bursting with pride as their sons or daughters received their diplomas. Having a college grad in the family was almost unheard of. For them, an education was everything. They were old school.

Being poor was no excuse for being rude. There were standards, and people abided by them. You respected your mother and father, not only because the ten commandments required it but because it was the right thing to do. You respected elders and people in authority like policemen, clergymen and teachers. Men held doors for women; young people gave up their seats on the bus to older people; profanity in mixed company was looked down on; manners were actually something we cared about. I remember learning things in school like how to make a proper social introduction, how to act at the dinner table; not to stare at people who were different; and how the words "please", "sorry", and thank you" could take you a long way in this world. Courtesy is old school.

Clearly attitudes about things like work, education, and family have changed over the years. I see kids saying things to their parents and teachers that would have got me a wooden spoon upside my head. I see punks taunting cops and the cops bending over backwards to avoid responding. An old school cop would have planted his foot in someone's ass and administered a much needed lesson. Teachers get hassled by bratty kids with no manners and no fear of reprisals because they know Mommy will back them up. Bullies electronically terrorize the odd kid out until the poor kid does something to himself or someone else. This is the world we live in and I think we are all worse off for it. We could use a little "old school" to turn things around.



Children's Craniofacial Association

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