Thirty years ago marked the release date of Back to the Future.
I mention this to call attention to a life marker. When it came out in 1985, it inspired a wave of nostalgia about 1955. I was in high school in 1955. A lot of that movie looked familiar.
Now comes the double whammy. It has been as long since the movie was released as it was between 1955 and 1985.
Younger people notice a single marker. They perceive that things are speeding up. Older people notice the double markers. “It has been as long from Y to today as it was from X to Y. But X just can’t have been that long ago.” Sadly, it is.
Some things do not change. In every high school today, there is a Biff. He may carry a gun after school, but his outlook is the same. His buddies are dangerous on a scale that Biff’s buddies weren’t.
The victims are more vulnerable.
The vice principal in 1955 could send Biff to the football coach, who would paddle him. The vice principal in 1955 would publicly deny that such an enforcement system existed, but it did. Today, lawsuits have long since eliminated that negative sanction.
The educational system’s economic sanctions still favor Biff and his wrecking crew. The state pays money to the local school district for each student enrolled. So, if Biff and his buddies were expelled permanently, this would reduce state subsidies. There is a strong preference on the part of school authorities to make suspensions temporary. Biff would have been back on campus within a week in 1955, and he would have been determined to get even with any student who had informed on him. Today, a student might be mugged after school.
In Back to the Future, no parent interceded for a victim. This has not changed. Marty’s 1955 father was as feckless back then as Marty’s grandson would be today. There is an institutional strategy to force the school to get rid of Biff, but few fathers adopt it.
Before Biff there was Scut Farkus, who made it to the screen in 1983, but all of us Jean Shepherd fans had known about him for two decades or more. He and Grover Dill imposed a reign of terror on their victims in the 1930’s.
Is there nostalgia about 1985? Will there be nostalgia about 2015?
What about public education in 2045? Will it still be based on bricks and mortar? Probably. Traditions die hard. Working parents enjoy tax-funded babysitting eight months out of the year. But those four vacation months are a problem: latchkey kids.
What will go on inside these schools? Teaching will be digital and Web-based. The classroom lecture will have gone the way of the classroom slide rule.
Will there be a Biff? Of course. Biff is part of high school culture. He is traditional. Government funding of compulsory K-12 education guarantees that Biff will be enrolled.
Will there be a way to avoid Biff? Yes, just as there is today: homeschooling. But this involves a parent who stays home: a forfeited salary. There is no such thing as a free lunch or a free education. But there need not be a subsidized school lunch. There need not be any Biffs in school.
No Biffs are enrolled in the Ron Paul Curriculum. But there is no Enchantment Under the Sea, either. Sorry about that. If you want Enchantment Under the Sea, you get Biff. They are a taxpayer-funded package deal.