Having been around for eight decades, I lived through the aftermath of the Great Depression, when my father lost his job for three years and my parents lost our home.
I served in World War II, went to college, married, raised a family, followed my career to four states, witnessed the Dot-Com revolution and retired. Millions of others have had similar lives that give us some perspective on the current state of the Union. I have given considerable thought to this topic and will cover several major issues: Pub-lic education, jobs, manufacturing, and our culture.
Like many others of my generation, I received an excellent public education in a small community because we had superb teachers, most of whom were women. As a result of the advancement of wom-en’s issues in the past four-plus decades, many of the very talented and superior women who would have taught in my generation are now attorneys, physicians, scientists and other professionals. Because of this, and the power of the teachers unions, I don’t believe that we have enough of those dedicated, brilliant women and men teaching today. Unfortunately, we discovered that higher salaries do not necessarily make better teachers. Recently, I read that we do not even rank on the top 10 of industrialized countries in education. How do we get back to where we should be in education?
In my youth we had hundreds of jobs that poorly educated people could do. Most of the work was manual labor, such as the work done by filling station attendants — men who worked at every gasoline station to fill up your tank, check the oil and wash the windows. Our self-service society has eliminated this and scores of jobs like it. This relates also to education. It is estimated that millions of young people are dropping out of high school every year. In our technological 21st century economy, there are no jobs for them. They become part of the perpetually unemployed and thus financial wards of our government. In some demographic sectors, this has become a generational dependency. How much of this waste of human capital can we afford as a nation?
In my youth, the United States had a vibrant manufacturing sector in steel, appliances, textiles, shoes, automobiles, airplanes, ship building and much more. Most of it is gone. What happened? The manufacturing sector was heavily unionized for a good reason. Corporations had taken advantage of labor, and many abuses ensued. However, over many years, the unions struck for higher and higher wages, and corporations, in order to maintain their profit margins, off-shored their labor and millions of American workers lost their jobs. Also, the genius of Americans produced higher levels of technology, which also eliminated many labor-intensive jobs. Yet there is a great need for more trained people in the trades. Are we advancing this opportunity? Not everyone is cut out for college. Are we doing enough to promote and support technical colleges like MATC?
In my youth we did not have a cultural divide on religion. In fact, at our weekly high school assemblies, the principal read a verse from the Bible in addition to our reciting the pledge to the flag. We also celebrated Christ-mas and sang Christmas carols in assemblies. Even my Jewish classmates sang them. The Ten Commandments were not taboo on public buildings. Further, we did not have a drug problem, although in New York State, one could drink alcohol at 18, and many of us may have had a drink or two before the magic age.
We lived in a quieter era with more family time, little or no TV and no 24/7 communication with cell phones and iPads. Children were able to be children. Sure, there were some out-of-wedlock babies, but they were rare and not celebrated. Over the decades, probably starting with Madalyn Murray O’Hair and the Supreme Court ruling in 1963 to ban prayer in public schools, we have been transformed into a much more secular society. She was termed by Life magazine as “the most hated woman in America.”
I am not posing any answers, only asking… Is everyone happy, and are we as a society better off than we were?
Arthur F. Loub, long active in many civic roles, was president of the KSU Foundation for 15 years.