October 4th, 2007

October 4, 1957

Fifty years ago today. I was thirteen and after school I found on the boulevard my daily bundle of Minneapolis Stars. I sat down, cut the string on the bundle and started to fold them into the classic paper boy fold, perfect for tossing at screen doors while bicycling full speed past the houses (nobody does that fold any more). I looked at the huge headlines and something on the order of "Russians Launch Satellite!!" "Sputnik Circles the Earth!!!" Never forget it; the Cold War entered a new phase.

America was electrified. Not long before that day our principal at Central Junior High had announced to the school, "Our school policy is no homework." It took one Sputnik to change all that. The federal government went major over-reaction, as usual, and poured money into science and math, terrified that we were being out technologized. A year or so later we all watched out tv's as the American satellite Vanguard (which was going to show our brilliance) lifted about thirty slow feet off the ground and toppled to the right in a ball of flame. It was going to be a long fight.

But Kennedy picked up on Ike's determination and told us that by the end of the sixties we would have a man on the moon; good for a laugh, right.

Sigh. Moments in childhood.

I notice that the government didn't pour funds into English classes lest the Russkies best us in poetry. Come on, let's be realistic. Science and technology are so dominant to this day that much of our culture has been destroyed by the fear and fascination of those areas of education. And schools are mesmerized by those gray and pallid disciplines. And we may be lesser in many ways for it.