Why Retreating into the Past is a Bad Idea!

In 1975 I started my first professional teaching job in a small city in North Dakota.  During that time period there was a big movement in education, probably the most exciting time of the last century,  in which many of the old practices came into question.   The old practices came into question because many young people were not making it through the education system.  They were not learning, failing, and dropping out.   We wanted to know why and what we could do about it.

Some experiments were tried.   Some were good, and some were questionable, but before any of them had a chance to prove themselves,  a big wave of “going back to the past” which was called “back to the basics” gathered momentum and virtually snuffed out the alternative education movement altogether.    “Back to the Basics” was presented in a way that made the past seem like paradise, while at the same time assailing the mistakes of the new experiments as if they were the anti-Christ.

The big mistake of the back-to-anything movements is the way they shut the doors on the future.   They retreat to the past to find the answers.    Imagine Thomas Edison doing the back to basics strategy.   Whatever filament he was using for the light bulb that wasn’t working, he just goes back to and tries again.   What got him to the filament,  was trying out new things until his team found one that worked.    He continually went into the future.

It is not so much that “past” is the bad guy in the scheme to make things improved.   The past is a mixed bag.  There are positives to keep and a lot of old patterns that need to be discarded, but when you over-glorify the past, you don’t allow yourself to take an objective look at the old patterns that are no longer working.

More often than not the group advocating the retreat to the past is fearful of losing what it has or has lost what it had.   It is the loss that motivates the movement backwards.    To move forward one needs to go out in the future, see what is to be gained, and then become inspired to go for it.

The biggest gains in the future are going to be made by cooperating with others rather than retreating into our private cocoons.   In America, Iran is the enemy, but in Iran, America is the enemy.  To China the outside world is the enemy, but to the outside world, China is the enemy.   It goes on and on.   When we are friends with another, we will do anything to help and support each other.   We will sacrifice in all kinds of ways for the benefit of our friends.    This is because the love we share is such an amazing feeling that we will do anything to keep it.

The future is about friendship and love and cooperation between all peoples.   We are moving in that direction.  The sooner we see that future and how bright and wonderful it is the better it is going to be for all of us.    Love your enemies is the way Jesus put it.



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