The past and the future are always present


During the recent media hype about the Back to the Future trilogy, I wondered what the Marty McFlys in schools today would find if they travelled to the future, say 21 October 2045. I wonder if they’d discover classrooms just like the ones they’re in today, where students spend much time studying the past and not nearly enough time in classrooms considering how the present may shape the future.

I’ve also been wondering what students in the future will think of what we do now, in our present that is their past. I wonder if they too would want to travel back in time to change the choices we are making now.

To those of us who’ve been here a while, 1985 seems like yesterday. Hard to believe that three decades can disappear so quickly.

The Internet was still three years away in 1985. Video games, new in 1980, were developing quite rapidly. The Macintosh personal computer was one year old. And the hole in the ozone layer had just been discovered.

Now here we are in a world where today’s Marty McFlys carry in their pockets a device that can provide endless video game entertainment and also instant access to all human knowledge, including nanosecond updates of massive, “historical” hurricanes.

Would hurricanes like Patricia have emerged if we had acted on what we knew about climate change thirty years ago?

I worry a lot about the choices we are collectively making today, choices that are already shaping the world of tomorrow. I wish the impact on the next seven generations was considered in all those choices.

In Back to the Future, Marty McFly has to make sure that two people make the right choice in 1955. Marty’s very existence depends on that choice, after all.

What might teens living in 2045 want us to change about the choices we are making today since their existence depends on us?

Students in my classroom wonder about the impact of their choices quite a bit. Most of their concerns are about choices in careers  but they also wonder about the big questions in life. One of them asked me this week if each choice we make generated a whole different universe and if there were multiple universes created when other choices were made.

I said I didn’t know.

But what I do know is that in this world now, here, today, we are shaping the world our families will live in tomorrow.

The future, like the past, is always present.

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