To the editor:
Browsing through your high school yearbook can be a dangerous thing unless you've learned that wishing you could go back to change things means you'll probably screw things up worse than you did the first time.
I recently excused glancing at my Greenwood Juni-Per by rationalizing that since I was in charge of our 50th reunion, I needed to come up with some interesting reminiscences.
As seniors, we had the option of listing our favorite saying and prize possession. Incredibly, 18 of 57 seniors listed another person as their prize possession. What's with that?
To be fair, two of those folks listed their boyfriend's class ring, but I still counted them even though I'm sure the body came along with the ring. I do not know how many of my classmates are still with the person they captured 50 years ago.
By far the most profound prize was the lady classmate who listed her "right to be an individual." Really? In 1962? What did she know that the rest of us who gathered human chattel and revered driver's licenses and cars didn't know?
In 1904, G Stanley Hall of Johns Hopkins University wrote a two-volume study on adolescence. Trained in Prussia as behavioral psychologist Wilhelm Wundt's first assistant, Hall identified adolescence as a "dangerously irrational state of human growth requiring psychological controls inculcated through schooling."
It seems that long gone are the days when America's first admiral, David Farragut, took command of a British ship in the War of 1812 and sailed it to Boston at the age of 12.
The same age you and I were once, sitting at our school desks, copying notes from a blackboard, getting yelled at.
There are, however, some courageous, innovative individuals left like Jonathan Goodwin of Wichita who dropped out of school in seventh grade to tinker in a car shop. Goodwin now modifies engines of cars to make them run more efficiently and get upwards to 100 miles per gallon, sometimes pulling up to McDonald's and filling up with used cooking oil.
Maybe our female classmate was told she wasn't college material, or experienced some other degradation that none of us were aware then. Maybe she was told to apply for work at the local shirt factory.
What we failed to acknowledge was that we were labeled, put into age groups according to skill mastery or social standing, told that those who are successful in life are ones who follow orders and never question authority, all the while being deprived of growing up, experiencing real life, and learning who we were at that time, and, ultimately, who were are today.
That young lady echoed an amazing insight that many still know but are afraid to express.
Wayne C. Beaver