Some friends asked me to describe my high school experience. Usually I leave it at "not good," and move us all back to the present, but this time I gave context. Here’s a bit of what I said, and perhaps a bit more of a description.
My high school years were marked off by New Kids on the Block and the Milli Vanilli scandal. Nirvana was cool, but rebellious, and we all bandied about the word "alternative" for the likes of Kurt Cobain even though no one knew what it meant. Goths and punks existed, but the words for them did not. We called them skaters – kids who died their hair jet black and dressed in an all-black uniform in a bid for "nonconformity." ((they were incapable of the depth of irony that such symbolism might suggest in smarter group)) I never saw a single one of those kids on a skateboard. You formed your identity based on the music you liked, you could read voluntarily in public only if the book was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park or something by Stephen King, and people in my peer group bragged about carefully maintained C averages to promote the illusion of stupidity. For many, it was no illusion.
No schools outside of the inner city ever used metal detectors and most inner city schools didn’t either. Zero tolerance policies were only just being bandied about, and most of the time it was just more of the same: administration liked to pick on the same kids, but now it was policy. Some parents had cell phones, but only the ones that worked spectacular jobs, and I knew only two people the entire time who had Internet access. Sports stars were still over-privileged, and a few of the snottier basketball players felt I should comply with their protests against the marching band also having letter jackets. (I did not. I doubt it, but I still hope these individuals are ashamed of who they were.) The rich were still rich, the poor were still poor, and I was one of many lonely discontents trying to navigate among them.
Which is why – exactly why – I think people who want things back in the “good old days” weren’t really paying attention when they were in them.