Americans devote way too much energy to memorializing the past. Maybe it’s because I live near Washington, DC (home to 535 historial monuments collectively known as Congress) but it seems to me as if we spend a hell of a lot more time and money on building memorials and holding retrospectives of one kind or another than we do on creating the future. The fight over building a huge memorial to World War II in the middle of the mall (in which Congress violated the law and their own rules to shove it through) is just one good example. Maybe it’s just easier and less scary to look backward than to look forward.
I’ve always the idea of “creating” the future instead of just letting it happen. That’s probably why many of us became teachers. The best teachers I’ve ever met always felt that they were doing something to create a better future, if not for the world in general then at least for their small part of it. Great teachers – both in and out of formal classrooms – are optimists. I don’t see how you can teach and not be an optimist. The whole concept of education assumes that you and your students are going to become better people in some way.
Unfortunately, we come back to my first point: Americans are more interested in looking backward than moving forward. Too many people running this country seem to want to rewind society to some vague version of their good old days. Yet another memorial to the past.