The Herald Bulletin

October 30, 2013

Primus Mootry: Learning to cope in a changing world

The Herald Bulletin

---- — I have written on this subject before. It’s about “the good ol’ days,” however we may define them in our personal lives. In this time of great social, political and economic uncertainty, it seems we yearn for a time when life seemed simpler, quieter, and a lot more predictable.

In many ways, modern life appears overwhelming. Good news is rare as hen’s teeth. You can’t drink the air, and you can’t breathe the water. I remember the days when Mom would make delicious “ice cream” from new fallen snow. Not today!

Back then, kids would go out on Halloween, dressed in homemade or store-bought costumes, and wander from house to house for candy or other treats. I remember what a fun time it was for my sisters and me. The thought of danger never entered our minds. After all, we were in our own neighborhood and, for the most part, the neighborhood felt safe.

Not today. If children do go out on Halloween, they go with their parents or some other adult. Anything given to them as a treat is suspect. In fact, nowadays the trend is for children to go to Halloween parties, not wander from house to house. Whether they are friendly or not, it seems that neighbors can no longer be trusted.

Those were the days when neighborhood folk looked out for one another. Rich or poor, it didn’t matter. The pillars of the thing called “community” were the same three institutions: home, school and church. These three institutions worked together out of common concerns, chief among them the safety and protection of neighborhood children.

Nowadays, these pillars have changed. Some say they have been shattered. Of the two possibilities, however, I believe change is the more accurate. The whole world is caught in a sea change, and it is change that works itself right down to society’s most basic institutions, into our neighborhoods, and into our individual lives.

Home, for example, is no longer the place where “father knows best.” More and more, families are headed by women, many of them single parents. In fact, the so-called nuclear family (you know, Mom and Dad and Dick and Jane and Spot) is becoming a relic of the past.

As to schools, one of the old pillars of community, although they are very much alive and well, they are far from the neighborhood schools older ones of us remember as children. Today’s schools are more likely to be magnet-type schools where children are bused great distances to attend.

Then, of course, there is the growth of the charter school movement. Although such schools typically are referred to as “public,” that is true only because they have been able to tap into public funding for education. The difference is that parents may choose to send their child to a charter school, but the school must also choose the student.

It is an option truly “public” schools do not have.

Bottom line, neighborhood public schools are also fast becoming a relic of the past. This is no small thing. In many ways, neighborhood schools were part of the cement, the pillars, that held communities together. For good or ill, as schools have changed, so too have the ties that once bound neighborhood people together.

As to churches, they too have undergone profound changes. All the way from small churches to the larger ones, children and families from the neighborhood in which they sit seldom attend. Their parishioners come from other places, often from great distances, to attend Sunday worship services and then go back where they came from.

I do not know the full meaning of these changes. Their meaning, however, generally is expressed in negative terms. But I’m not so sure.

What I am inclined to suggest is that our yearning for the past has blinded us to the nature of the challenges of the new world in which we live.

If my belief is indeed valid, then, as a society, we are in deep, deep trouble. We are like the people who once believed that flying machines, called airplanes, were impossible. Or the people who believed that the automobile was just a passing fad and that the horse and buggy were here to stay.

In any event, change itself is not the problem. Bluntly put, we should not worry about our changing world, instead, we should worry about changing ourselves.

Have a nice day.

Anderson resident Primus Mootry is a retired school teacher. His column appears Wednesdays in The Herald Bulletin.