Once upon a time, as a young naive sophomore who had no notion of societal values and the ways in which they are institutionalized within culture, or the ways in which these values and institutions impact my own life and actions, I listened in awe and fascination as my AP World History Teacher taught me more in one class than I have ever learned in three others combined.
Kreuger taught World History, and he did a dang good job of it. But he is a man of many talents, and whether it was in the curriculum or no, he taught Sociology, Politics, Architecture, Writing, Language, Government, and so many other things I knew basically nothing about. His class was a freaking whirlwind of information filled with kids trying to stay awake and write it all down. And I clearly remember him telling us one day that our current information based culture was the product of nationalism, post-industrial values, and mercantilism. (All of which makes perfect sense if you think about it). He then followed by telling us that our society is training its children for office jobs.
"Well, do you think it's a coincedence they make you sit in desks at specific tasks eight hours a day for twelve years? You are being socialized into office drones! It's all because of the child labor laws! You need grown up-workers? Take the kids and structure the crap out of 'em!"
Kreuger liked to rant about things like this, mostly because so many of us were having our eyes opened to the simple fact that things aren't always the way they seemed last week. He told things how they were. He stripped things down to the bare essentials and made jokes about it until we were laughing on the floor. He told us stories of his days traveling the world while bartending whenever he felt like staying someplace for a while. He told us about seeing a man in Turkey walking down the street bleeding to death from the stump where his hand lately resided. He told us about that one airport where they hang signs saying that here is the place where they hang drug dealers. He described seppuku in gruesome detail. He told us about dream times and Aborigine tribes in Australia and challenged us in no small subtle way to ask questions about why we believed the things we believed and did the things we did.
My little brain was new to such concepts. I wasn't used to questioning things. In addition to drilling me until I could whip out an AP essay that scores a nine in ten minutes flat, Kreuger taught me to question, and to see the patterns in the big picture. Patterns and predictability are rooted in the world's history. For instance. A society's values and goals can be assessed by treatment of it's children, as expressed in the structuring idea. Here's a cool one. Watch all of history. Take a group of people. Stomp on them. Kill them. Enslave them. Separate them from their families. They'll usually take it. But take away their food and you're a goner. It all happens the same way. These are the kinds of patterns that get you nines on the test. While I don't write AP Essays anymore as a general rule, I question everyday. That's what life is about, really.
My favorite English professor taught me once that all writing is an argument. This idea is true, but incomplete. All writing is an argument for the writer's view, and a question about everyone else's. The best literature presents an idea, says, "Here's what I think. What do you think?" My favorite High school English teacher taught that all Literature belongs not only to the world of snobbish academia, but to everyone, because it isn't answers, it's questions. We, as a human race, have to be able to question in order to thrive. It's one of the things that separates of from all other forms of life. We can come up with out own answers and keep asking questions. This is what I love about being human! I get to question the crap out of everything that enters my brain. That is what makes us alive.
Here comes some more geek squad to finish off the point:
"Need Input!" = "Number Five, Alive!"
P.S. If you don't get the movie reference, you are fired.