Of Brownies and Breck girls

Present-day revisionists have managed to inculcate the notion that the post-JFK 1960s and the Nixon 1970s were all revolution, all the time, and the fact that I don’t remember it that way at all doesn’t count, because after all I’ve sold out to The Man. (Actually, I just live down the street from him.)

One thing I did remember learning during that period is that I didn’t understand the female half of the species at all, a situation which has changed hardly at all in the intervening decades.

With the dubious and possibly unattainable goal of addressing both of these issues at once, I have made a small investment in research material: I bought about a hundred back issues, roughly 1964 to 1975, of American Girl, a monthly magazine published (until 1979) by the Girl Scouts of America, and I will be going through them over the next few months looking for stuff that might possibly be relevant in some small way to my 21st-century existence. And, of course, whatever I find, I will duly wedge into this little text box.

In the meantime, here’s a pertinent observation by David Warren, dated yesterday:

I tell younger people sometimes that “I was there at the fall” — that I can remember a time before the Western world finished going crazy. They don’t believe me. They think everyone remembers the end of his childhood that way. But no: they are wrong and I am right. The nadir was achieved around 1969, when all the gulls of the ‘sixties came home to roost. On the exposed hull of the ship, as it were.

He finds evidence in his old high-school yearbooks:

[T]wo years later, and the teachers are a mess. The ties are disappearing, and some of the men are growing beards. One is actually wearing sunglasses. The younger female teachers are dressing to kill. Longhairs have started to roam the corridors; several of the kids look drugged. Group photos are chaotic, and the photographers should have been sued for half the mug shots. Hippie-dippie graphics have invaded the yearbook itself. The comments with the graduates’ pictures have become dangerously risqué and smartass.

This corresponds precisely to what I remember. At the end of the earlier school year, the old principal had been fired: he was a drill sergeant (literally, ex-military). The new principal was a “reformer”: a nice guy, a sensitive guy. Overnight, Ontario’s Hall-Dennis Report had also swept through, with its smug title, “Living and Learning.” Half the subjects had become “electives”: 300 pupils in Grade IX Latin became four pupils in Grade X. The bottom had fallen out of educational standards that had already been slung very low.

All these changes happened (not quite literally) overnight. Yet within a year or two, nobody could remember that anything had ever been any different. Or rather, nobody would dare remember. For suddenly we were living in that brave new world, and anyone who doubted it was marked as irredeemably “square.”

As the Beach Boys never sang, “Help me, rhombus.”

1 comment

  1. Mark Alger »

    2 April 2007 · 9:07 am

    And it might be of interest to note that — right about then — the teachers really pushed to unionize. Other government employees, too.

    Think there might be a connection?


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