” You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!” (Rodgers and Hammerstein from South Pacific)
The Rodgers and Hammerstein lyrics of “You’ve Got to be Taught” from South Pacific have been on my mind for a while now. As I get older and my parents and their contemporaries are gone, I’ve begun to notice that the basics of their world are slowly disappearing.
Growing up in the 50s and 60s, there were certain givens that I learned from my parents and also saw in my relatives and my friends’ parents:
a. If you gave your word, that meant it would be done. When two men gave their word and shook hands on it, that meant an agreement that would be honored. It didn’t need to be written down or notarized or have a lawyer representing you. Your word was your reputation. That meant it would be done.
b. RSVP…when you received an invitation and you told them you were attending, you were there. Or if you were asked to a date/prom/dance and you accepted it, you didn’t break it or simply not show up if something better came along. (My daughter told me about parties in HS that she’d gone to where there were 50 people who said they would come and only 10 showed up) or the term “Fashionably Late”…I always told her there was no such animal.
c. If you were hired for a job, you turned up the date and time you were scheduled for and you did the job you were supposed to do.
d. No stores were open on Sundays…period. If you hadn’t gotten your shopping done on Saturday, you were just going to have to wait until Monday(or hope that a family member or neighbor had what you needed).
e. I don’t remember there being daycares. There were nursery schools which were before Kindergarten…but they weren’t all day. I know my friends’ mothers and mine would take turns watching us if one or more of the mothers had somewhere to go. I also had a babysitter as well as my older brother(oh he hated having to watch me or take me along…)/
f. We played outside a lot…Springtime meant rollerskating, jump rope, ball games, bicycles, skooter…I don’t remember overly organized activities and our parents didn’t require that we be active all the time. Not like children today being taken from one activity to another. If we got “bored”, our mothers would say, “I advise that you find something to do or I’ll find something for you to do…” and that “something” usually meant a distasteful job of some sort!
g. Our food was different. There weren’t the array of snack and junk foods and drink that are available now nor were there the fast food restaurants. When you went out to eat, you sat down and you had to wait for your meal. We kids usually were given some crayons or a pencil to draw on the paper placemat for entertainment. You actually had a conversation while you waited and ate.
h. Telephones had a big black rotary dial. A long distance phone call was a rarity…often only used for bad news. There were telephone booths and boxes if you needed to call when you weren’t home.
I. There were no school busses. Our Elementary schools were all localized and we walked to school, came home for lunch and then back to school again. Junior High was when we all came together for the first time…again, we walked and came home for lunch. High School was when we had our first experiences with the cafeteria and choosing and changing classes.
j. Clothes…there were definite requirements regarding our mode of dress. I remember my mother telling me, “You’re not going out in that!” No going out in public in clothes you wore in the house. No curlers. Always dress the part…no sweat pants, sloppy wear at all. I found it interesting when my daughter had her semester abroad(in college) in Cheltenham, England…she was used to seeing her college mates literally looking like they rolled out of bed to get to class in time. In Cheltenham, it was a different story. They were required to dress the part…and she never forgot that.
I personally miss the gentleness of my parents’ generation. They didn’t have the need to be occupied all the time with computers and phones. They knew how to sit outside on the porches on a lovely summer evening and talk to their neighbors as they strolled by. They watched the children playing and catching fireflies before bedtime. They had time to just savor the moment.
I am concerned with the small children of today…too many of them not experiencing being outside and knowing the simpler pleasures of life. Not being able to be creative with their time…we can’t be creative if we are in structured activities all the time or our minds occutpied with computers, telephones, tv and video games.
We have to be carefully taught…to love, to treat others with equality and kindness. To exercise and eat healthy foods and drink. To have meaningful conversations with those we love. To have the time to be creative and do creative things. And it all boils down to example…we adults have to start being what we want our future to emulate. And what I am seeing on the news just shows me a very scary unfriendly world. We have to be carefully taught the good things!
til next time…Eva