The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
When I taught at Pima Community College, I used to tell my students that children born from the 70s through 2010 really have little perspective about how bad social unrest can become.
I believe this is the result of our failure to teach history in its fullness. This failure leaves younger generations without reference as to how to meet the trials of today.
I understand people are afraid and scared of what lies ahead. Children born in the ’50s and ’60s saw the assassination of President Kennedy. We saw daily rioting in the streets, prison riots, racial tensions, massive civil rights violations, students shot dead at Kent State for peacefully protesting war, and friends being shipped off to an unending, unwinnable war (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos).
I also told my students they could thank those people who came before them, those whose actions during these decades revolutionized our society and the world. Today, we no longer “draft” every eligible 18-year-old to war.
Minorities, including women, can pursue their dreams with much more freedom and support from society than they had previously. Women can now choose not to be mothers or housewives. They are not limited to being secretaries, or cashiers, or factory workers. Previously, women could not be firefighters, police officers, or astronauts. If one was fortunate, they might attend college to become a teacher, but not scientist.
During the past 60 years we have had massive cultural and social change, leaving much of today’s population lacking knowledge of the sacrifices of previous generations.
If you are troubled by the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, please research the experiences of previous generations.
Educate yourselves about the liberties society enjoys today. Realize that privileges such as ready access to social media that enabled people to amass on the Washington Mall, were unheard of in past generations.
Understand that along with privilege comes responsibility to ensure the greater good. Americans are at a significant crossroads of change much like we were during the former six decades.
Is this scary? Absolutely! Should we cower in fear? Absolutely not! It is the friction of discourse among varying sides that leads us to consensus and a better life for all.
Are your children home now due to school shutdowns? Do some historical fact-finding with them. Research people from the Great Depression, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam.
Teach them about the evils that transpired during Nazi Germany that revealed how depraved humanity can become when it goes unchecked.
Examine the turmoil people endured during the ’50s and ’60s. Explore the failures during those decades, as well as the successes. Teach them about the bravery of American heroes who brought society through those difficult years to better times.
Challenge them to develop the character traits exhibited by our national heroes. Teach them to be bold, brave, confident and willing to confront the issues of today in a peaceful, caring and loving manner.
Show them it is better to be a light in the darkness than to let the darkness envelop and defeat them. We are Americans. We are unlike any other society in history or on the Earth today. We are uniquely free with many choices at hand. Let us not forget the accomplishments of our forebearers, nor the possibilities for the future that our privileges and careful choices can achieve.
Cathy Tullgren has a master’s degree in social work and has worked as a social work administrator and program developer, as well as a high school and college educator.