Now Where’s My Leisure Suit?

Cool Reconsidered

In “Good Influence: Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood,” author Dan Heischman diagnoses an unexplored danger.

“The desire to be cool is a basic, fundamental, and powerful urge in human beings, as much for parents and teachers, as for young people… But coolness is by nature a drive that does not draw upon our internal resources, the self and soul that gives us the power of conviction.” (56)

When I was a young teacher, the approval of students meant far too much to me. It’s not an uplifting mid-life realization. And at the risk of sounding like a complete curmudgeon, I now find few things as jarring as seeing adults mimic adolescents or go out of their way to seek their approval. (I still do a double take whenever I see someone my age wearing a baseball hat backwards!)

By contrast, Heischman correctly points out that, “Young people gravitate toward adults who dare to be themselves. Indeed, it has been my experience that not only are they drawn to them, they become very possessive of them. Those who inspire young people the most are those who go out on a limb and risk the very things they long for and grapple with every day – the admiring approval of others, a way to fit in – and are thus able to show young people a way out of the coolness and pretense.”

At UCC we are often graced by the presence of a former master who strolls the halls, clad in woolen socks and sandals. Clutching a cane and quoting bits of Greek and Latin, he is like an Old Testament figure, offering good humour and good advice to all who are in his presence. That he is so profoundly unfashionable is downright refreshing. And Heischman is exactly right in his comment about “possession” because this master is “Our Terrence” and Old Boys, teachers and students alike enjoy him. His wonderful eccentricity, his charm, should inspire all of us to rid ourselves of the tyranny of the trendy.

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