David Bouchier

They say that nostalgia is never what it used to be, and that’s true. But still it never goes away, and renews itself in each generation. Nostalgia is the warm feeling we get when we imagine the good old days. Television, and especially public television, is a wonderful source of ready-made nostalgia, with its apparently endless series of quasi-historical dramas, many of them British, like Midwives, Home Fires, Victoria, the perpetually repeated Downton Abbey, and now The Victorian Slum.

The German philosopher Hegel, whose theories have given more headaches to more students than any number of keg parties, once said: "What we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history."  If Hegel was right, you have to wonder why we have traditions like Memorial Day, which are designed to remind us of the past.

Courtesy of Pixabay

NPR’s Weekend Edition on this station has a segment called "Barbershop,” on which invited guests can openly discuss any subject in the news. Not in my barbershop you can’t. My barber has strong opinions. With the big voice of Fox News shouting from a screen over our heads, he tells me what I need to know, but evidently don’t, about foreign policy, economics, the complexities of social class and race, the nature of democracy and government, and just about any other topic that comes up. I’ve learned to keep quiet.

Steven Senne / AP

As we navigate the dreaded pre-summer season of tests, exams, and the breathless wait for results, students from kindergarten to university are facing the challenge of their lives. They don’t like it, and nor do their parents, thousands of whom have withdrawn their children from standardized testing so as to avoid this trauma.

Those of us who never had a proper education in science are reminded of our ignorance every time we switch on a computer, or a microwave, or even a light bulb. It might as well be magic, but it’s not, and we have no more idea how these tricks are accomplished than we understand the flying broomsticks in Harry Potter. Satellites spin in the sky above our heads, we get miraculous drugs from the local pharmacy, and make calls on phones that don’t seem to be connected to anything, and we don’t understand how any of it works.

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