Tag Archives: Woodstock

Teacher’s Lament: Where are the Well-Behaved Woodstock Kids Now That We Need Them?

I just talked to an old teacher and longtime friend who said this country needs a “million-teacher march on Washington.” We’d been idly chatting about my post here last Monday on what Woodstock meant when he launched into a rant. He agreed with my idea that half a million people surviving three days together without police or authority, with no riots, was an important social milestone. And then he added:

“Woodstock could never happen today because back then this country cared about raising children, and education. That whole generation of Hippies grew up in a society that respected education and order.”

What? Hippies, respect, education order? My teacher friend is about five years younger than me, so he’s in his middle fifties. Was this some kind of baby-boomer post-LSD flashback or something?

“No.” he went on, “The same thing couldn’t happen today because those kids from 1969 grew up in orderly homes with orderly parents, so that even as they rejected authority, they still understood how to tell right from wrong, and respect others. Sure, they rejected organized religion, but they grew up with it first, before they rejected it, so they still understood how to tell right from wrong.”

I don’t like generalizations about kids these days, that sentiment is too trite. Old people like me always gripe about younger generations. In fact I posted my support for Generation Y here a couple of weeks ago. Still, the anger and frustration of a long-time teacher is scary.

And it gets worse.

His reference to a million-teacher march was about frustration with teachers quietly accepting an astonishing decline in the quality of education in this country. He said that teachers have been relegated to apparatchik status; that they should be ashamed of their failure to cry out against the decline of teaching in classrooms. He said:

“I still like the teaching. I like the subject matter and the kids. It’s the crushing disinterest of parents and bureaucrats that kills me. We’re just babysitting (he teaches high-school English). It’s not exactly that we don’t have order, or materials, or respect, or support from parents. It’s not exactly that we’ve made mindless uncritical and superficial self esteem more important than learning anything. It’s that nobody really gives a damn whether we’re actually teaching or the kids are actually learning anything, as long as nobody makes waves.”

He hasn’t scheduled the march yet. He promised to let me know if he does. And I’ll pass that on.

(Image by secorlew via Flickr)

Moonshot, Columbus, now Woodstock Also a Myth? Say It Ain’t So.

We baby boomers have lost too many cultural icons. Don’t take away Woodstock.

Some nut shot John Lennon. Good journalism — or was it reality? — took away our faith in institutions. We’ve pretty much lost Ford, Chevrolet, General Motors, Wall Street, faith in television news, trust in doctors, air, water … hell, they even took away Christopher Columbus, who went from great explorer to racist exploiter, all in one generation. And now there are people who say the 1969 moon walk was faked. But Woodstock too? What’s left?

I turned 21 in 1969. I was a West coast kid, nowhere near Woodstock, working a summer job between years at college. But, despite the technicality of geography, I was there in spirit just like the rest of that half of my generation that had woken up to new values, wanted to change the world, believed in a new kind of freedom, opposed the Vietnam war, and drank the cool-aid. With whatever symbolism we could find, usually nothing more than long hair and bell-bottom pants, we paraded our loyalty to what we thought was going to be a once-in-history sweeping change in humanity.

The Woodstock media sensation was cultural affirmation.  It was just about a year after the 1968 student uprisings world wide — riots, broken windows, overturned cars, breaking out simultaneously in places as far apart as Tokyo, Mexico City, Paris, Berlin, and cities across the United States. Unlike the year before, though, it was a new kind of uprising, a peaceful uprising. It was validation. Half a million people gathered for three days in a muddy field with no money, no violence, no hierarchy, no police, no authorities, and no problems. And it proved what we’d been saying to ourselves, to our parents, to our teachers, bosses, and anybody else who objected.

It felt like a turning point. After Woodstock, “Hippy” was no longer a bad thing to be.

All of which brings me to this disturbing segment of a fascinating Wall Street Journal video (below) on how Woodstock changed music. Oh the loss, oh the disillusion! Is nothing sacred?

Disillusion number one: marketing? The narration says “the Woodstock nation was born, ushering in a whole new area of marketing. True, I’m all grown up now, I get marketing, my company depends on it like the rest of small business, but jeez, marketing at Woodstock? That’s Woodstock’s legacy?

No, I hope not; but then John Scher, CEO of Metropolitan Talent, explains:

“You had a new brand. It was called Woodstock. And you had music that was associated with a mass movement: A social, cultural, and political movement. Music could be marketed, differently, than it was before. And then you had people who had no soul, just trying to sell product, trying to figure out how they could latch on.”

(If you can’t see the video, click here to go to the source at wsj.com)

But wait: it gets worse. The narrator implies that the legacy was more the movie than the event, and in the movie …

“Not all the performers fared so well.  The order of performers was changed, some were left out, in some cases songs performed elsewhere replaced songs performed at the event.  It all helped to create a memory that wasn’t necessarily true to life.”

And still worse. The five-minute piece finishes with WSJ Music Critic Jim Fusilli:

“There’s a lot of really terrific performances that received no exposure. For the past 39 years, they’ve gotten very little bounce. A lot of Columbia artists didn’t get into the film. A lot of Capitol artists didn’t get into the film, or onto the album. You had a giant label in Warner Brothers, who had possession of the music at Woodstock.

“I don’t remember what actually happened anymore either. I’ve been struggling against the myth of Woodstock. I’ve probably read 10 books, I’ve listened to (I bet your) two thirds of the music that was at Woodstock. I’ve talked to probably 20 people who were at Woodstock or involved in Woodstock. And I don’t really know what happened anymore. The only thing I have that I can trust is the music.

“This is a debate that I have with myself all the time, as to whether things like Woodstock, and the Beatles, and the Stones, will continue into the future. Whether people will have the same affection for them once the social context has changed. And I think it’s hard to say. The truth is that as long as a single hippy remains alive, the myth of Woodstock will be perpetuated.”

Screw historical accuracy. Power to the people. Leave Woodstock alone.

On the other hand, sacred? Who are we kidding? So, in the immortal words of the late great Gilda Radner (another baby boomer, by the way), never mind.