A tribute to Lloyd Dobler


-I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.-  Lloyd Dobler-Just Say Anything

Lloyd Dobler can be seen as an affable loser. If any adult cared to see the movie back in 1989, a time of unfettered greed and excess-think Gordon Gecko, they might just see him as someone too lazy and pathetic to make it.

As Americans, we live in a culture obsessed with money. Jobs, careers, college being the ticket to a “middle-class” life. I get it. We need people to be obsessed about money. Without rampant consumerism our economy would grind to a halt. Something like 70% of the US GDP is based on consumption. We can’t consume if we don’t have money. We can’t consume more without more money.

But then there is Lloyd, our 80s anti-hero. What does he want to do? Support his girlfriend as she studies abroad. Nothing heroic there. He wants to kickbox and make her happy and just generally see where life goes. No struggle. No conquering of his inner flaw. No mentor to guide him and show him the error of his ways. Heck, he barely fills a duffel bag to travel overseas. Not exactly girding his loins for battle against opposing forces.

As a teacher, I wonder about those kids not tempted to get on that college track; those kids who are like Lloyd, knowing what he does not want and happy with what he has. I worry that we are pushing college down the throats of 12 year olds. My school system just bought a college search program for 7th graders, mandating guidance counselors to do this and that in order to prove that kids know what their college, major, and career will be before they pop their first pimple. Really?

I worry about those kids who just don’t know. Who haven’t bought in to the whole “system” that sells the idea that everything up to the age of 18 is for getting ready for college. Then, college, then a job, then…what? What’s the goal?

I have  John Lennon quote hanging in my classroom:

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” 

Are we doing enough to allow kids to find out what makes them happy? I think about Lloyd when I teach. I used to have the above quote in my classroom, taped to my desk and out of sight of my principal. Not sure it counted as motivational, but it served as a reminder to me personally and to me as a teacher. Happiness doesn’t necessarily have to come from buying, selling, or processing.

As I reflect on my teaching,  I wonder if I am helping my 13 and 14 year olds become young adults that can think for themselves, make decisions, come to logical conclusions. Or I am just another brick in the wall? Are my assignments me not understanding life?

Thoreau exclaims, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation…it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of life…Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me.”-Walden.

Lets be sure that we allow them to design their own hypothesis, conduct their own trials, and draw their own conclusions. We have enough desperation.


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