This post is slightly different from my regular Word Nerd Wednesday installments. Rather than offer up a dictionary definition of the world progressivism, I’m going to tell you a story.
Yesterday, one of my history students asked me to explain the meaning of progressivism. Because we had a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time to cover it, I decided to tell her the hypothetical story that I am about to tell you.
“Imagine, Katie”, I told her, “that your great grandmother bequeathes you a two-story 1920s era home with French country decor. Inside the home you found a wide variety of beautiful things. There is gorgeous wood molding, elegant poster beds, and Tiffany lamps. The house is lovely. However in the den is a strange nod to a 1970s style decor that you hate. Overall, you’re really not a fan of the house. Even with all of its acknowledged charm, you have a strong preference for modern architecture and decor. You’ve decided that you’ll probably nevrer live in the house.”
“Having mostly found it useless to you at this stage of your life, you decide to get rid of it. To accomplish this as soon as possible, you go and grab a can of gas, and pour gas on as much of the walls and furniture as you can manage, and toss a match on the whole shabang as you walk out the front door. In your haste to unload the old house and find a new one, you fail to consider the valuable treasures from your grandmother you are leaving behind. Gone is the ugly 70s den and the drafty attic, but also gone are the beautiful Tiffany lamps, highly artistic wood moldings, and pretty poster beds. It’s all reduced to ash, despite the fact that you’re not quite sure exactly what it is you’re looking forward to in your next house. Your entire focus is directed towards leaving the known behind coupled with the unquestioned belief that the next house you find will necessarily be better, simply because it is newer.“
“That, Katie, is progressivism in a nutshell.“
I really wish you could have seen the look on the faces of these teenagers. Some were shocked, and others were clearly processing what I said.
Here;s to hoping they never forget it.