Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 856 Who Made that Rule, Anyway?

Hi podcast listeners. This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Remember the Janet Jackson malfunction at the Super Bowl several years ago. The country got so excited by her baring a breast while performing at half-time. “What was that all about?”  My father-in-law asked and went on. “Why can’t women bare their breasts just like men. I mean when women used those ol’ wringer washing machines I can understand why they might have needed to keep their breasts bound or covered in some way, but no one does that today. He was in eighties when he made that observation. "Who made that rule anyway?" he asked. We had been talking about how easily discussions of real important issues are ignored and topics of little importance take over the airways.

What a good question. "Who made the rule, anyway?" We retired folks need to ask that question about a lot of things. We have a lifetime of experiences to guide us in decision  making. Some questions require lots of examination and experiences. Perhaps we are now best suited to make rules or changes in rules. “We’ve been around’, so to speak.

Sarah, a daughter of a friend of ours, asked us to donate to a fundraiser at her school. She would do some service work in exchange for the money. “What will the money be used for?” we asked. “Art supplies like paper, paints and stuff like that”, she replied. “Musical instruments for the band and sheet music’, she went on, “And then for afterschool activities like soccer and other sports. And some of it will be used for some more modern computers for some class rooms.” We gave her twenty bucks.

What has happened to education? I always thought that art, music, and athletics were part of the educational experience. And Computers - well. You would think these sorts of things would be budgeted for by the district. But, I guess they are being either left out or short changed. Students have to go out and request donations to supply them. What happened? Public education is basic to the American Way. When did we quit supporting it? Have art, music and athletics become incidental to education?

Most of us retired people remember when the Russians launched Sputnik and the space race began. Math and science became the American mantra. Teachers were encouraged to take summer classes in those subjects. We call them STEM classes today. The more academic inclined students were encouraged with scholarships to major in those subjects. Students of English, humanities and the arts became marginal scholars. “What kind of a job can you get with a degree in that?” was the universal question. Students were encouraged to think of education as providing a door into the world of work. Attending college to become well educated became antiquated at best.

Capitalism and corporate culture were officially enthroned not only in our economy but in our educational institutions.  Arts and humanities were neglected and often abandoned.

I never liked it or thought it was a wise thing. We might win the space race but what about all of the other things in life. What about deciding what kind of political system is the best? How should goods and services, or money, be distributed throughout the world? What kinds of laws should our community have? Is marijuana really bad for you; like worse than whisky? Is capital punishment necessary? Do we need to help one another through social programs: like social security, policing, fire departments, health care, and public education? How do we practice civility towards those with which we disagree.These are all governmental institutions - at least some of them - does that make us socialist? And if so, is that bad?

I don't want to be misinterpreted. Math and science answer many question that make for better living. But math and science don't answer all questions. I recall a statement from my son when he was a student at Stanford. He was majoring in geophysics and also taking all of the premed classes. Then he decided to add an additional major of  anthropology. He said  “ the soft” classes are by far the most difficult. The problem is that there are no hard and fast answers in those”. In math and science it is all just pretty much cut and dry. “You’re either right or wrong. But in the humanities the answers are not so easily determined”.

Over the years the only other legitimate or popular area of study became business. Students were encouraged to prepare themselves for the world of work or making money. Their universal answer to every question seemed to be: “Let the market decide”. What kind of an answer is this? Who made that rule? Where do the words caring, loving, sharing, empathy, or compassion fit into this solution to all universal questions? Where's the ethics? I understand the acceptance of letting the market decide when one is 20 years old and first introduced to Ann Ryan. Sometimes I think the last book read by people was "Atlas Shrugged". They never moved past it. A simple sound bit doesn't necessarily answer all questions.

We retired people need to speak up. We need to take a good look at the rules. We need to question not only the rules but those who make the rules.

This is Retirement Talk.

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