It’s hard not to laugh when my students think they’re imitating or comprehending the zeitgeist of—whether to honor or mock—the 1980s.
Though, in almost every way, it’s impossible to fault them for this.
The individual members of the incoming freshman class will have entered this world sometime in 1996 or 1997, a full seven to eight years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. To their active and eager minds, the 1980s meant lots of repetitive electronic pop music, an MTV that actually played music videos, leg warmers, bright colors, big checks and plaids, baggy pants and oversize shirts, top siders, goofy hair styles, televangelists, “duck and cover” safety from nuclear weapons, general happiness and prosperity, and John Hughes movies. It was a time before time, an era without wardrobe malfunctions, wacky chief executives, or reality TV.
Not all of these memories are wrong, of course, just selective.
From what I can tell, most current students idealize the decade in much the same way my generation—coming of age in the 1980s—viewed the 1950s. That nearly perfect decade represented peace, prosperity, primitive rock music, American assertion of power without lots of consequent deaths, innocence and naiveté, white t-shirts with packs of cigarettes rolled up in one’s sleeve, poodle skirts, leather jackets, James Dean shades, motorcycles, Marlan Brando cool, and tail fins on huge cars.
Everything, of course, was in black and white as well in the 1950s.
Well, so we thought.
But, two things must be remembered by those of us who lived in the 1980s and who want to teach our students the truth.
[Please continue to read on page 2]