As a child, I grew up thinking that we Americans took for granted that the future would always be better for the next generation. I was taught to believe that the advance of knowledge and benefits of galloping technology would improve our lives. We were imbued with a faith that if we put enough smart people together in a room, we could solve most of life’s problems and maybe eventually abolish inequality and poverty in the process. After all, people in the movies and on television managed to solve all problems in 30 to 120 minutes.
The hopeful programs of John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society clarified and reinforced this belief that the U. S. would continually become richer, safer, and happier for all of the American people. However, the Viet Nam War began undermining the belief in government infallibility and the conservative forces started mounting effective challenges to expansion of government power needed to bring about the transformation.
The New Frontier was designed “to get America moving again” after the sleepier Eisenhower years. The Great Society’s mission was to “finish the unfinished business of the New Deal”. Welfare was federalized and proved to be the most disastrous social experiment in the nation’s history. Illegitimacy rates since 1965 have roughly tripled and nihilistic violence and despair blight vast urban zones.
During the Reagan years, the relatively unified perception of the future began diverging – faith in knowledge and technology was questioned as undermining traditional values and labeled as “secular humanism”. Values clarification was attacked – traditionalists argued that there was only one traditional structure, no further clarification was necessary.
That ignored the common reality in countless cities and towns that the backbone of their life – a good economy built on high industrial wages – was dissolving. Unions were diminished as millions of good jobs were transferred to China. Formerly middle class workers lined up for unemployment assistance and food stamps. Many signed up for retraining programs to qualify for jobs that paid half their previous salaries. Traditional values became less comforting to people uncertain about what the future held for them.
Furthermore, millions of middle class people were trying on alternative lifestyles, tens of millions more were using drugs, and youth were listening to music that questioned all authority and related values.
In the process, a counter-culture formed and offered parallel structures of values that competed for people’s interest and favor. Direct immigration from perhaps 200 countries further enriched and broadened the American belief system.
A person would have to be intolerant, perhaps even delusional, to insist that there is but a single slate of values to live by. American life is very complex and young people making their way in life are some times overwhelmed from the challenge to make the right choices for them. Young people need all available information from a range of sources to make wise decisions on their pathway to building their American Dream.
The future today has become so politicized that perceptions of it are totally fractured. The current, heated partisanship has produced parallel views of reality and the future and evidenced in the following five examples:
1. Burning fossil fuels causes CO2 emissions that are warming the globe and melting the arctic – Global warming is not caused by growing CO2 emissions and is a hoax. If we ignore global warming, how do we prepare for it in the future should it happen to prove true?
2. Local control of schools prevents government takeover of schools – Federal and state aid is needed because communities and counties are broke and U.S. public education is at risk. How do we improve the public schools if local systems lack necessary resources to prepare students for life but ideologically block any federal or state assistance?
3. Drugs are illegal and prohibited – Drugs are everywhere with two states having legalized marijuana and more are lining up to follow suit. The DEA war on drugs has failed yet new drugs keep appearing. So how do we help young people in the most rational, cost efficient manner deal with freely available drugs that saturate their society like sex?
4. Government should be minimal to govern best – Government must be expanded to improve services, fix crumbling infrastructure, combat terrorism. The infrastructure is crumbling and combating terrorism is expensive and intrusive. What is the most rational and efficient form of governance to assure America’s security and stability in the future – less government or more?
5. Government is inherently corrupt, even evil – Government is benevolent and provides well being. It’s my perception that American democracy is inherently committed to well being for the entire population. How do we continue to provide upward social mobility in what is becoming an increasingly stratified society? Will our future be torn apart by class warfare caused by a pernicious inequality? Twenty years ago, the top 1% of income earners owned 23% of the wealth. In 2013, the share of the top 1% earned 43% of the wealth or more than the poorest 150 million Americans
Those are just five examples of a conflicted view of reality and the future that are hotly debated by Americans. Between 1975 and 1980, I published three articles that reflected Americans search for authentic value structures to live by. Although obviously dated, these articles present simple truths and timeless information that make them still relevant and clear today.
In 1975; I published in the Georgia Social Science Journal, the article; “So You’re a High School Social Studies Teacher Who Read FUTURE SHOCK and Would Like to Teach Your Students a Class About the Future?” It follows and I have interjected narrative when necessary to update the reader.
As part of the initial post World War II baby boom, I have been the first generation weaned on television; in fact, I was one of the first American children to start watching it. My family bought a TV set in 1947 when only people living in the New York metropolitan area could receive the signals.
My mother quickly learned that TV made for a great baby sitter. I can remember as early as age one my mother placing me on the couch, turning on the TV set, then cook dinner or do housework. I watched in awe as Kate Smith sang, Garry Moore bantered, and the stick figures in Uncle Fred’s Comics ran over the horizon. Now 67 years old, I have thought for 66 years more in visual images than print words, perhaps longer than all but a handful of people.
As a teacher, I sensed that my mental processes – the way I learned and thought – would be more similar to my students than other teachers. I believed that my visual thinking enhanced my ability to shape for young people positive learning experiences, outcomes, and preparation for life. Now retired after having had the teaching career that I’d hoped for, I believe that more than ever.
There was an outpouring of future related materials in the early 1970’s that made me want to teach a class on the future. Twice I tried to schedule one but was discouraged by administrative and departmental resistance – they claimed that students were unprepared, or that I did not understand the hierarchal leadership system that would inevitably block me.
During the summer of 1974, my late wife Sue, noting boredom in me from perpetually repeating tired curriculum, borrowed from the library, The Role of the Future in Education: Learning for Tomorrow, by Alvin Toffler. The opening quote stunned me; “All education springs from some image of the future. If the image of the future held by the society is grossly inaccurate, its system will betray its youth.
Toffler was right – the U.S. was not preparing its students for a future of rapidly accelerating change, especially the growing economic dislocation caused by changing technology. I researched the subject and learned that a teacher in Melbourne, Florida, assisted by N.A.S.A., had taught a successful Future Studies course. Alvin Toffler was brought in as a consultant and curriculum developer – this provided me with the a model to adapt to my Atlanta system classroom
I began the school year excited that I might finally provide my students with an innovative and relevant learning opportunity. The Fall and Winter Quarters flew by and I pressed the administration to schedule the course. I had occasionally sampled student interest and been rewarded with a chorus of positive reactions.
A random survey of the schools library magazine rack showed sufficient materials to at least get a course going. When course approval arrived in time to schedule a Spring Quarter course titled “Ideas of Mankind”, I was cautioned to expect no financial assistance for curriculum or field trips and informed not to expect any. Still, I gratefully accepted the challenge of constructing my new course and recruited students and plunged ahead.
In all fairness, the Atlanta system was broke at the time – there was a real estate recession in Atlanta in 1975 that savaged school tax revenues. Ironically, the Atlanta system is coming out of the 2008 financial crisis that again greatly lowered real estate values and tax collections.
Regardless, I applied for a four hundred dollar grant from the Georgia Bicentennial Commission and my proposal, if funded, would have prescribed my course. The main goal was to teach the future in accordance with the celebration of the nation’s two hundredth birthday and probe the future of American society. My students would be living well into the 21st Century and they would probably have to adapt to a couple of technological revolutions.
into a single package and present to invited community members, educational leaders, parents and fellow students their description of the future of Atlanta, Georgia, and American in a slightly premature celebration.
Without commission approval, the original curriculum would have to be scrapped, and I would have to scratch and beg to succeed. I began the class understanding that commission notification would come about three weeks into the course. That meant that I could be turned down and would have to design an entirely new format. That variable motivated me to create my own curriculum on a day by day basis from any available sources.
My students thankfully were intelligent, inquiring, flexible, and displayed very healthy interest levels. They liked innovative components such as no grades, total trust, and openness. They appreciated what I was doing for them and were determined to not let me down.
A semi-structured inquiring approach was employed to force students to confront the decision-making process. Since no text books on the future existed, we bought thirty copies of the Atlanta 2000 Magazine – most of the money was out of my pocket. My students were expected to read a selected magazine article at home, answer assigned questions, and be ready to discuss the subject in class the next day. Many of the students purchased the magazine upon course completion because they felt it contained invaluable insights into their future urban environment.
I divided the curriculum into five independent learning packages and a sixth that focused on Drug Education – the first packet was on values education. Since the class believed that values begin at home and are acted out in school, they decided to survey the values that their fellow students were displaying in class, the halls, lunchroom, and athletic fields.
The class investigated the Atlanta Public Schools Commission on Discipline report that identified rights and responsibilities of students, teachers, principals, area and central staff, community members and parents. The students collectively developed a new student constitution based on the results of their values survey and submitted it to the administration for approval. The new constitution was rejected immediately by the school administration without any discussion or negotiation.
After clarifying fundamental personal, career and educational goals, the class tackled a study by Ian Wilson that had been financed by the General Electric Company and published in the World Futurist Magazine (Feb. 1970). Ian Wilson had predicted the course of eighteen major social trends that would influence the nature of future life. By studying a profile of significant value system changes, 1969 – 1980, each youngster produced his / her individualized chart. Some examples of significant competing values identified by the Wilson study were:
/ military mightprivate enterprise
In order to choose from competing value structures, and utilize personal decision-making effectively, one must know his own self in a deep and honest way. A short survey of fundamental theories and theoreticians began with learning the basic concepts of the psychoanalytical, behaviorist, and cognitive schools of psychology. Dr. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and self-actualization process and Dr. Laurence Kohlberg’s moral reasoning development scales were covered along with insights into Piaget, Erikson, and Freud.
on a very large sheet of poster-board describing all student origins and unique personality traits. Other requirements were to project value development by answering five basic life questions:
· What constituted development of a healthy ego?
· What level of material and social needs were needed to satisfy them?
· What educational and career goals were they planning?
· What were their family development goals and intentions?
· What was the preferred lifestyle that they were primarily identifying with?
The students had to make scientific predictions for technological, sociological, political and geographical changes. They added a “news flash of the decade” based on the possibility that their prediction might actually occur.
In one culminating activity, the class drew posters of themselves in gradual stages of deterioration according to the usual aging patterns and incorporated potential future world problems such as natural catastrophes and wars. One female student predicted that by age 54, a pill would be developed that would permanently freeze aging.
Learning packages #3 and #4 consisted of many magazine articles, each with related sets of questions or other applications. A summary of the most helpful articles is provided at the article’s conclusion.
Learning package #5 was a series of ten magazine articles that were visual in nature. The pictorial format that described present and future technological advancements was an excellent motivational tool for stimulating meaningful discussion.
A drug education packet was the sixth learning activity package. Many people might question the inclusion of drug education in to a curriculum on the future. Drugs will never be eliminated from our pressurized society and futurists forecast the use of wonder drugs designed to perk up IQ’s and help students to conform to the classroom environment and cope with schooling (Ritalin).
Versions of Aldous Huxley’s Soma have been developed in many forms – behavior altering drugs and Brave New World is not that far away. Some social planners contend that it is already here and has been for awhile.
Many experts cannot verify whether hard drug usage is declining or increasing. Drug violence is mostly local – witness Chicago’s record body counts, the product of Southside drug distribution gangs competing for markets and resultant warfare. In the rest of the country, drug violence is rare and mostly random.
Whatever the situation is, temptations are always around and students will continue to be forced to choose, making it imperative that they be given useful data about all drugs.
New Zealand, on August 2, 2013, announced that it is considering decriminalizing synthetic party drugs because the designer’s capacity to keep changing formulas has blunted the state’s ability to regulate usage. As soon as the government declares a particular party drug to be illegal, the chemists issue a new formula that is legal and the sales explode. Prohibition encouraged innovation at a rate that the state was overwhelmed to effectively respond to.
Students read the introduction and followed the programmed instructions for the forty article series that included photos, cartoons and examples of government anti-drug use propaganda. Lists of songs with drug oriented lyrics and films with potent drug messages and themes were also included.
An important objective of this course was to teach the students how to think, research information, organize their thoughts and take notes. Each student compiled a massive, personal resource materials notebook for research purposes and utilization. Today, of course, we Google everything or consult the Wikipedia.
In retrospect, I believe that the course outcomes exceeded my expectation. It was the most rewarding and satisfying work experience of the first seven
years of my career spent in three different, big city systems. The fact that it occurred at a high school with a 99% black population which rarely sent
30% of its students to college, where 50% of the students dropped out before graduating, and where reading levels lagged the national average by four years
made it exceptional.
Innovative social studies instruction can also flourish in semi-segregated systems and schools if certain rules are followed:
- Social Studies teachers of
excellence should be recruited to redesign curriculum for greater local student
- Block curriculum cannot satisfy all
student needs nor should it
- Homogenous grouping should be
promoted to nurture positive results for novel educational experiments.
- Principals, department chairs, and
registrars should support innovative teachers and not resist or neglect their
- Funding should be sufficient to
provide a high quality learning experience.
Futurism is best utilized as an interdisciplinary subject. Part of each school year’s social studies curriculum should include future studies components. Adequate funding to create or acquire learning materials and computer tools is necessary to expand students’ minds.
The Atlanta destinations and attractions listed below may appear mundane and even archaic compared to the Atlanta of today. Trust me – this list really represented “futuristic trends” in 1975.
Drug Education Curriculum – Elementary Level
Part 1: Introduction – Summary of Drug Problem in American:
Are these two children your brother or sister? Do they belong to a relative or friend? Do their parents know what they are doing? Is that their father in the background? Is he smoking pot too?
Drug users often have school aged children. As a teacher, could you identify the children of a famous rock musician who got high all day long in the house? How about the children in a predominately black elementary school whose father was the primary ghetto narcotics dealer?
How many teachers use drugs to get high? I viewed an APS administrator warn a Fall 1973 orientation class of new teachers that any personnel arrested for possession of illegal quantities or selling drugs might have to be fired. The administrator at that very moment was mulling over what to do about two male elementary school teachers that had just been arrested for selling twenty pounds of high grade pot, 1000 tabs of L. S. D., and 1,500 methamphetamine pills to an undercover policeman.
If your child’s teacher was arrested for using or selling drugs, how would you react? I imagine that soon in Colorado and Washington steachers may legally be high while at work teaching school. I hope that those state’s teachers will be professional and not teach in an altered state of consciousness. During my professional career, I was always disapproving of teachers who drank or did drugs on the job.
Drug education is a highly controversial subject:
Drug education is a highly controversial issue for the teacher and public. The majority of Americans believe that learning activities that deal with drugs and related sub-cultures have no place in the classroom. Negative attitudes are generally due to beliefs that teachers may be educating children who formally had no interest in – or knowledge of drug usage. Students, therefore, might actually be introduced to, or initially led into the problem by teaching about drugs.
For decades, amphetamine orders were collectively placed at exam time by fear-stricken dormitories, fraternities, or student cliques. Approximately 500 million amphetamines are legally prescribed each year, almost two per man, woman and child in the country.
Today’s politicians are more likely to down power drinks all day long to keep their energy levels high and speech incessant. Friends of mine swore that Al Gore had consumed too many power drinks before his debate with George W. Bush in 2000 and that it undermined his performance.
Teachers who have gone through specialized drug training programs may be afraid of sounding too knowledgeable on the subject. They worry that they might be suspected of drug usage if they are able to authoritatively answer student’s questions. Other teachers are afraid of alienating student trust by sounding like a narcotics detective or by mouthing simplistic slogans such as “stop drugs at the source”.
Two states, Colorado and Washington, recently legalized marijuana and are trying to figure out how best to regulate consumption and distribution. Eleven states allow medical marijuana to be cultivated and sold to presumably ill people who present medical needs and rationales for their use.
As early as the 1970’s, Eugene, Oregon, and Madison, Wisconsin were treating pot use as a minor offense with small fines. As university cities, they could not jail the whole campus and learned to live with the behavior.
Under Governor Nelson Rockefeller, New York experimented with the toughest drug laws in the nation – thousands of people, especially teens, were locked up for minor amounts. The laws proved to be a dismal failure and harmed countless peoples’ lives.
America has been a drug and pill culture since the 1950’s – big pharma used the spellbinding power of TV advertising to persuade us to take remedies for whatever ailed us. And we did and in the 1960’s turned to nature for purer sources such as marijuana, mescaline, and cocaine. L. S. D., however, was a freak incident in a Swiss chemistry lab in 1939 when three chemicals mixed and the law of unanticipated consequences led to the C. I. A.’s using it in the 1950’s as truth serum for spies. Ken Kesey later helped the C. I. A. understand what this drug really did to, and for people, with his famous bus trips.
A child is urged by TV commercials to consume alcohol and caffeine – nicotine is now relegated to secondary advertising channels. The child is barraged by slogans such as “Take Sominex and sleep” or “for a headache, take ____________ aspirin” or other brand name version. This same student may also watch their parents take a drink before or after dinner to de-stress. The child may deduce that it’s permissible for them to smoke a joint and groove to some music.
Critics of drug legalization point to B. F. Skinner who believed; “Genuine reinforcers can be used in ways which have aversive consequences. A government may prevent defection by making life more interesting – by providing bread and circuses, encouraging mass sports, widespread gambling, ubiquitous alcohol and drugs distribution. Today we would add widespread access to pornography on the Internet.
The Goncourt brothers noted the rise of pornography in revolutionary France of their day. “Pornographic literature,” they wrote, “serves as a Bas Empire…..one tames a people as one tames lions, by masturbation.”
Waves of drug epidemics have swept the poor neighborhoods of American cities and towns for the past forty years. From heroin to cocaine to crack to crank to PCP to whatever drug cartels were finding most profitable at the time, they targeted urban markets to spill over into the suburbs and beyond.
In the 1960’s, drugs became part of the mythology of the counter and youth cultures and undermined respect for authority.
Jane, aged 16, expressed her views:
It’s possible that tens of millions of Americans each day who use drugs may lead productive, quiet, non-destructive lives in a fairly tolerant society.
However, million more burn out, destroy or kill themselves, or wind up in jail because of excessive involvement. It is not my role to promote moderate
drug use or to call for total prohibition. Logic demands that each individual will express free will and live as they wish.
I surveyed my 1975 Future Studies class – they were predominately black and of lower middle class economic status:
- 50% admitted to smoking pot regularly – some claimed the rate was higher
- They smoke without guilt or sense of doing something wrong
- 10% admitted to sampling “harder drugs” but did not identify them
This concludes Values Clarification Part 1: American Perceptions of Futurism, Change, Technology and Politics. Please proceed to the next folder – Values Clarification 2: A Drug Education Curriculum for the Elementary Grades.
Yes, elementary grades three and four – four lessons focusing on value and drug
1: The Growing Child and Search for Personal Values