We're going to go back to school like it's 1989

It was Labour Day of 2000. I had accepted the job to work for Estevan Lifestyles Publications.

All of my relevant worldly belongings were stuffed into my 1987 Chevrolet Cavalier and my parents’ 1995 GMC Sierra. My mind was racing with thoughts as I pondered what awaited me in Estevan.

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And then it dawned on me: “This is the first Labour Day since 1982 in which I haven’t been thinking about going to school or university the next day.”

It’s still hard for me to believe that it’s been almost two decades since I graduated from university, part of the first graduating class of the new millennium (or the last graduating class of the old millennium, depending on your perspective). I’ve now spent more years outside of the education system rather than in it.

I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning. For me, every day is a new learning opportunity, even though I have no intention of ever going back to study in a classroom study. (I have given up hope on ever getting my PhD in journalism, if such a thing actually exists).

And I’m amazed at how much things have changed over the years.

Having a near-photographic memory can be a curse at times, but usually it is a blessing. It allows me to remember the good ol’ days (which for me was the 1980s, and really those weren’t always so good). But if I say something happened, you can check against my memory, and I’ll be proven right. If I offer to wager money with you and it involves my memory, don’t take the wager.

Anyways, I remember when I was in elementary school, my parents purchased a pretty important gift for my sister and me: The complete World Book Encyclopedia. These were actually very valuable assets to have circa 1990, as they assisted with many an essay or research project.

The Interent wasn’t a thing back then for the average person. I really didn’t start to hear talk of it until around 1993; we didn’t get it at home until 1995. And I might have been the first kid on the block to have the Internet. I can still hear the sound of that modem buzzing in my head.

And since it was dial-up, if somebody called while I was “surfing the web,” the Internet cut out.

Now if I were to ask even a high school student about the World Book Encyclopedia, modems, or dial-up, they would give me a funny look, and then research dial-up Internet on their smart phone.

It goes to show how much things really have changed. The high-speed Internet that was introduced late in my university days? It wouldn’t be considered high-speed anymore.

Even when I look back on my university days (or my glory years), I have to marvel at how much things have changed. We were so excited to get a G4 computer for our university newspaper office in my senior year. Now that G4 computer would be in a museum, next to the World Book Encyclopedia collection.

(As for the old Mac computers that we used at the university paper, I would much rather see them destroyed with a sledge hammer than preserved in a museum).

We still watched movies on VCRs (although a few had DVD players), we still had the bulb-screen TVs and the massive stereo speakers, and few of us had cell phones. We spent our Friday nights playing poker; now the university students play online.  

I really can’t imagine trying to be a student in today’s school system, not with my ADHD-fuelled mind that’s always moving a mile a minute. I know what would happen: I’d be assigned a history report. I’d start writing that report. And then something would trigger a part of my mind, and I’d have to research it, even though it would be completely off-topic. Repeat.

It was so much easier for me to research projects when you were using the World Book Encyclopedia.

I would probably feel pretty lost in the classroom of today. I’m sure that kids no longer have the big desks, where they stuff all of their school supplies, textbooks that they aren’t bringing home that night, and things they want to keep out of sight from their teacher.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a blackboard in the classroom. I’m guessing that the overhead projectors that we thought were so cool in 1992 have likely gone the way of the do-do bird, too.

I also can’t imagine being a teacher in today’s world, although part of that is because they can’t run their fingernails across the blackboard any longer.

It amazes me how far the technology has come, and how it continues to progress. It’s particularly prevalent in the classroom.

I don’t have kids of my own, so these are the thoughts that circulate through my mind when school is back each year. Sure, I think about friends and field trips and good grades, but I also reflect on old computers, blackboards and when parents had to leave messages for students at the front desk, instead of a text message.

Sometimes I wish for simpler times.

Except for dial-up Internet. It can stay extinct.



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