When I was a child I visited the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. There was a Fun House that had some amazing things for you to do. There was a wave machine—not like the ones you might see today, but a “walk” that you could go on that had pieces moving up and down while you were moving forward. There was also a circle that spun around (kind of like a merry-go-round without any bars to hang onto) that you would crawl onto and then the spinning would begin and you would go flying off and crash into the padded sides. There was also a giant barrel that was spinning around (rather slowly) and you were challenged to walk through to the other side without falling down. But the big attraction in the Fun House was the giant slide. After walking up countless stairs, you would sit on a piece of cloth—maybe a cotton bag, and then slide down to the bottom. I could spend hours in this Fun House, and would trudge up the stairs to the slide as often as I could. When I was five, we stopped going to Santa Cruz and started going to Disneyland—also a totally amazing place although certainly not what it is today.
As an adult I had the opportunity to visit Santa Cruz with my children. I was so excited to take them back to the Fun House with the giant slide and the many challenges that were contained within its four walls. We paid our money and went inside. I was amazed! Nothing I remembered was what I saw as I looked around. The circle was still there, the waves and barrel were there, but they somehow looked “tired” and not very appealing. But the biggest shock was the slide. It was not “miles high” it was maybe (if I really push it) two stories high but probably closer to a story and a half. How could this be? My memories were so clear and the reality so out of sync with my memory.
It was probably my first experience with the phrase, “you can’t go home again”. I now realize that the “good old days” are as you remember them—gilded and shiny—but in reality they are often no longer relevant. The “good old days” also had 8-track tapes, dial phones, 1 television channel that broadcast only a few hours each day, and cell phones nearly as “big as a house”. Yet I remember the best parts of those days and have lost sight of the down side.
So what does this trip down memory lane have to do with anything? I am wondering if California is trying to recapture a day gone by as we see more and more political appointments representing the “good old days” rather than the world as it is today. I think this may be especially true when it comes to appointments to education-related positions. Education—the purveyor of the status quo—is outdated in many cases. We need to be looking at new ways to support learning and engage young people whose “brains” are wired differently than yours and mine because of the experiences they have had. Let’s take a hard look at what we are doing. Are we relevant? Are we rigorous? Are we building strong relationships so we can have strong teams?