Graham Seibert Autobiography – draft Jan 15, 2013 Page
Biography – Chronological Account 4
Why tell my life story? 4
Reed College 24
College Dropout 27
Washington DC 36
Independent Consulting 38
Family Vacations 44
Teaching School 45
Biography – Topical Account 48
Lifelong Exercise 48
Girls / women 52
Women are a central theme in my life 52
College experience with women 55
Girls in Vietnam 57
Women in Germany 58
Women in Washington DC 1976-79 58
Marriage to Mary Ann 59
My first family 60
My history in education 62
School Boards 62
As a parent 64
Education School 65
Physical health and vices 68
Aches and pains 69
Mental health 72
Foreign Language 73
Reading and self-education 77
Evolution, Liberalism, Universalism and Christianity 87
On intellectual bullies, a lead-in to my political views 91
My ancestry: parents’ story, and what I have pieced together from the Internet 97
In planning the homeschool education of my son Edward, I find it useful to draw on my own life’s experience. I am writing this autobiography to refresh my memory of incidents and the chronology of my own formation.
As my life has touched that of almost any reader of this obscure piece, I invite comment, correction and suggestions for additions.
My chronology is inconsistent. For example, I thought I remembered taking French from Irene Sargent in the 8th grade, followed by French I – French III from Mme. Bruninck at El Cerrito High School. However, in the 9th grade I was still at Portola, where I took Social Studies from Miss Campbell. I’m not sure what year David Baker and I went backpacking with the Explorer Scouts in the Sierras, and which years I went to the Swedenborgian Leadership Education Institute on Mount Tamalpias. I’d appreciate being corrected.
Here are links to references that may interest a reader:
A chronology of my childhood, in Excel
A chronology of the vacations I took with my grown family,in Excel
An account of the end of my 25-year marriage and my grown family.
and the same in PDF format, just on the remote chance that Microsoft screws these links up somehow:
My book Edward, about homeschooling my new family in Ukraine, is available from Amazon for a nominal $4.99. Ask and I'll send it for free.
I am a member of the silent generation, born 1925-1945, sandwiched between the greatest generation, which fought World War II, and the baby boomers. The presidency skipped us, jumping from Bush Senior to Clinton. We observed, but were generally not the primemovers for, several revolutions which had a profound effect on America. Let me recap how peaceful and innocent the times were for a kid graduating from high school in 1960.
Television had not arrived until I had passed my formative years. I grew up without moving wallpaper. I gagged when my little brother watched Howdy Doody. Who could waste their time with such blather? But he did – he was infected before he could recognize the disease.
The sexual revolution had not yet come. The birth control pill would arrive a year later. We whispered about the one or two girls in high school who might “do it.” Mostly, girls in my high school expected to marry and raise families. The clairon call to feminism, “The Feminine Mystique,” wasn’t published until 1963. We were the last (somewhat) sexually chaste generation. We were square.
People didn't divorce much. I expected my friends would generally have two parents at home and go to church on Sundays. Unitarian for the real free thinkers, Saturday for Jews, Catechism for the Catholics.
High school kids did not know about any drugs except alcohol. Learning to drink gave us an unacknowledged bond to our elders, in contrast to marijuana which would radically divide the generations. One small exception: the Top 40 DJs titillated us endlessly with comment on the drug habits of the beatniks across the bay in San Francisco.
As far as we knew that top 40 music represented all of America, which was mostly Christian and white. Traditional American values were expounded and respected, mainly for want of alternative values. We read about them in Jean Paul Sartre and Henry Miller, but I didn’t think I knew people who practiced them. I later found out how naïve I had been about Berkeley.
The first signs of the civil rights revolution were in evidence, Brown vs. Board of Education and its fallout in Little Rock and elsewhere, but it had not yet affected our lives. I had gone to integrated schools all my life. Hell, Lonnie Watkins, a black kid, gently shook me down for my lunch money, counted in pennies. Wasn’t that integration?
We generally trusted the government. We paid our taxes and supported its wars. We believed that political conventions and presidential debates were sincere and unscripted. That’s what we had learned in civics class.
We respected our teachers.
It might have been a fool’s paradise, but it was indeed a paradise compared to our world of ten years later. By 1970 American society had lost its figurative virginity. Many blushing young things their actual virginity! They had illegitimate kids and STDs. Popular music celebrated drugs, and we had drug habits. We had dropped out and were begging on the streets1. Some of us were in Vietnam; others had invented some plausible lie for the draft board or fled to Canada. Black militants, leading mindless black mobs, had charred large swaths of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC and other cities I didn’t know or care about. Schools were forced to use legal “due process” in matters of school discipline, which meant there wasn’t much discipline any more. Murder rates soared. SAT scores plummeted. Although we youth would have militantly rejected the suggestion, it was a high price to pay for the thrills of sex and pot.
America had seen waves of revolution before. There was the industrial revolution in the latter 19th century, after which the inventions of the car, the telephone and the airplane changed life radically in the early 20th century. The Depression and the War radically expanded government and homogenized the country. Social Security was the seed for the growth of dependence on the federal government, which at this writing involves half the American population. Only a few at the time realized how wildly revolutionary it was, and could forsee the consequences.
More revolutions were to follow the 1960s. Though the information revolution started with World War II, the real computer revolution did not begin until the 1980s, when personal computers came into widespread use and email over dial-up connections became commonplace. The world really was connected, first through character-based media because the bandwidth would not yet support graphics. I was a moderately early adapter, buying an IBM PC in 1982 and starting with Compuserve over a 1200 baud modem about four years later. Kids born in this era, variously called the “Net Generation” or “Gen Y”, are the vanguard of the next major societal revolution to sweep the country after the ones named above. It involved electronics: computers, cell phones, video games, and a proliferation of recorded entertainment.
All things considered, however, the revolutions of my youth - television revolution, sexual revolution, divorce revolution, drug revolution, music revolution and antiwar revolutions, which peaked with the generations which graduated from high school in the 1960s,- seem the most radical. They had a profound impact on the way Americans think, and ultimately, how the world thinks. The Baby Boomers really were something new. These revolutions of the 1960s built the foundations of the world into which my son Eddie will grow into manhood, and they also dramatically altered the concept of manhood itself.
Charles Murray lists four “founding virtues” of America in his book “Coming Apart2:” industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religiosity. The revolutions of the ‘60s challenged all four of these. Religious references, or at least anything presupposing belief in God, disappeared from popular music. Discusssion of God was banned from schools. Teaching delivered with the expectation that women would form families, such as home economics, disappeared from the curriculum, along with the supposition implicit in courses such as typing and secretarial work that they would play a supporting role in business until they were to marry.
The first mentioned virtues, honesty and industry, have faded more slowly. As we have become a mass society we no longer depend as much on durable personal relationships in business. We increasingly do business with strangers, and increasingly depend on contracts, courts and brand names for protection against the cupidity of our fellow man. Likewise, we witness people succeeding by other than hard work. Credentials count for more, and personal references less, in our increasingly impersonal world. People attribute success to graduating from the right schools. Americans have come to see a job as an entitlement. They also believe that “equal under the law” means “equal,” from which follows the conclusion that all peoples are entitled to more-or-less equal jobs and hence income.
Certain sectors of society, notably the civil service, have implemented widespread systems of racial preference under the rubric of affirmative action. This has made these workplaces generally less attractive to white people, who have to spend their professional lives always on the defensive against accusations of racism and therefore may find it easier to work in the private sector. The same is true to a lesser degree of the charge of sexism, and the presence of women in government jobs. Certain professions, such as the civil service and teaching, have been effectively given over to minorities, and have been abandonned to the notion that one’s identity as a member of some disadvantaged group outweighs one’s industriousness as a workplace virtue. Both the number of civil service employees and the pay they receive relative to the private sector have grown substantially. Promises of future benefits, which brought electoral benefits at no cost to the politicians who made them, mushroomed especially quickly.
As Murray writes, a sense of entitlement has displaced hard work, the dissolution of community has sapped honesty, and religion and family are viewed as archaic values, based on outdated superstitions and inimicable to the pursuit of individual happiness. The emergent concept of manhood in the United States and the Western world is not one which has brought men a lot of happiness, and is not conducive to perpetuating our culture or even our genes. Historians will undoubtedly devise some interesting labels in retrospect, but in the meantime we have to live through this epoch. I have made my own unusual accommodation with the age, moving to Ukraine in my mid 60s and starting a second family, and plan to prepare our son Edward to assume a similarly unique place in society. The standard niches he might have been expected to fill appear to be dead ends.