Avoiding Trendy Ideas
Moving is a reminder that old, previously cutting-edge tech has no value, super-awesome trendy clothes of yore are embarrassing, and a good leather Bible endures.
A mentor once wrote me: “That which is up-to-date is forever dated.” To which my young brain thought: “And that which is out-of-date is never dated.” We were both right, though I meant that the young man who was out-of-date would not get the young women to go out with him, and the wise man meant something more!
Professor Vanauken was saying that the trendy or cool would be looked at in time as relics of the time. I am not even sure what the cool word for cool things is at present. After teaching for over thirty years, I have lived through “rad,” “phat,” “groovy” (twice!), and other words I should be careful about mentioning. Like faddish clothing, teachers should not attempt faddish words.
Vanauken was not saying “old is good.” There is no virtue in wearing yesterday’s fads as if the trendy become sanctified by age and social irrelevance! I was right: out-of-date is no virtue. Never confuse being old with being of value or you will overpay for trash at a garage sale, read some terrible Victorian novels, or fall for some bad philosophy.
Marxism is not improving with age.
Whether out-of-date or up-to-date, the problem is thinking time applies to eternal things. Beauty is eternal so a beautiful piece of clothing will always be a thing of joy, even if it is no longer practical or common. Wisdom is eternal so a good idea today is still sound, though applying to any era is always tricky. Virtue endures and never shames anyone as people in politics and Hollywood are being reminded.
What we are seeking then is the classic—that which endures. We must be careful, however, as many who use, “classic,” just mean, “the educational fad before when any of us were born.”
We do not reject John Dewey, just to listen to Horace Mann. Instead, we look for the wisdom, virtue, and joy that has shot through even the worst fads. Classical education does not mindlessly reject anything that works.
We should look if we can for the new that will age well: become antique. We should find the antique and see if what once was new can be applied anew in our time. Classic ideas must be made new by being done by living people in our present age. Wisdom floating about in our heads must be applied by working hands using soft hearts.
Professor Vanauken was an historian so he understood how much things change, and how little they change. He saw great cultural changes—marching on Washington for civil rights—but also terrible things (young Vanauken was in Honolulu during Pearl Harbor). He kept thinking, changing, moving forward until he died, because that is what Christians do. His immortal soul is now with the eternal God in perpetual rest.
Let’s prepare to do likewise!