North and South Korea Hug at the 38th Parallel: What educations should be and why the NKU Millennium Falcon Expereince was the most important thing

I had a lot of thoughts while waiting in line at the BB&T Arena at NKU University just across the river from downtown Cincinnati to witness the promotional exhibit for Solo: A Star Wars Story which comes out on May 25th. Among those thoughts were how nice and well-educated all the fans were who showed up early to get a ticket to essentially sit in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, which was in so many ways very, very cool. From my perspective as a super fan of not only Star Wars, but of the functions of world mythology in the greater sense I noticed some very special things going on that were worth a deeper analysis. Because of my conservative political positions, my stance against large salary requirements for teachers and college professors, it is often asked of me what I want in public education offerings that are reasonable, and to be quite honest, I want our education system to produce the type of people who were in line for that Solo exhibit—and the type of people who have used the Star Wars mythology to bring meaning to their lives where the regular social offerings have failed our entire civilization.

What made this NKU exhibit from Lucasfilm and Disney unique was that it was free, and there was no merchandising on hand to clutter up the motivations of people. All they wanted to do was see the props of the Millennium Falcon from the movies up close and satisfy some longing for that reality to become their reality. Because reality as we have all come to know it is something very disappointing. Star Wars for many people offers an alternative to that boring reality and that was quite clear to the thousands who showed up to see the Millennium Falcon Experience at NKU over the first weekend of a four-city tour which will take place all through the rest of May 2018. I’ve traveled the world, eaten in the very best restaurants in places like Japan and London, I associate with people at the very top of the food chain both politically and economically. If I’m not a mover and shaker in the world, I don’t know who would be—so I’m hardly a couch potato geek who is hiding from reality behind the fantasy characters of a space movie. Yet I’ll say that one of the most thrilling things that I have ever done in my half of a century of life was to sit in that cockpit of the Millennium Falcon with my grandson, wife, and granddaughter and play with the buttons, handle the flight yoke and just sit there for many minutes in private to consider how everything could work in real life—how to make that delicate transition from fantasy into reality—which is where everything is headed.

Even better than all that though was the people in line with me, who from what I could tell were some of the smartest people I’ve seen in one place in many years. If I had been waiting in line for tickets to a Miley Cyrus concert, the collection of intellect presented would have been much less. Most of the children present were reading books while in line, mostly Star Wars books. Most of the adults had already read them and were certainly higher than the average intelligence that is functioning in the world and I would attribute that to the fact that Star Wars has given people something positive to think about, so even though what they were thinking about was a fantasy entertainment offering, the process of thinking about something had better prepared them for functioning in the world than the average person experienced, who didn’t have such advantages. The exhibit itself took a long time to get through because of all the thousands of people in line, only five people at a time could go through that Falcon cockpit, so people were very motivated to wait their turn which I thought was astonishing. Nobody in line was angry with the people ahead of them making them wait, it was one of the most remarkable things I had witnessed in a long time from a large collection of people. Given that the campus of NKU was in the background I couldn’t help but think that every college in America should aim to have this type of experience for everything they try to instill in an educational format to the participants of their classrooms. The goal of all education should be to turn on minds, not to turn them off, and often that is what we are doing at all levels of our education. The people who have become Star Wars fans over the years have rejected that premise. When their schools have told them to turn off their minds and to stop daydreaming, to put their hyperactive kids on Ritalin, the people at the Millennium Falcon Experience who were there with me on that first day, the people who Channel 19 called “super fans” with just a bit of contempt to make sure the viewer didn’t associate her with them—the Star Wars fans rebelled and turned inward rejecting social norms and invested their intellects to the fantasy world of a galaxy of a long time ago far, far way.

While all this was going on I was checking on the latest NFL picks from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, watching Kenya West get criticized by the liberal entertainment guild for defending President Trump, and North Korea and South Korea were hugging at the 38th parallel, an astonishing feat all by itself, and contemporary society mistakenly thought that those events were more important than this Millennium Falcon Experience—but I don’t think so. In many ways it is those events that are the fiction and it is the mythology of Star Wars that has more truth in it than anything else going on outside of that NKU campus that day. Specifically, the Kenya West situation where just because he’s a black rapper married to Kim Kardashian he’s supposed to fit some liberal presentation of what a “black person thinks”—which was taught to all of us in our public-school experience. Those same public-school personalities don’t teach kids that Republicans ended slavery, and that Fredrick Douglas the great black crusader was a Republican. The emphasis on what we learn in our K-12 educations is not to read and perform math, its to fit into a segment of society for which our political philosophies at the administrative level can deal with when everyone grows up. The purpose of public education is to create demographic groups, not individualized thought and Kenya West was pushing back against that system which had all the proponents of that reality very upset. Many of the Star Wars fans at NKU to see the Millennium Falcon Experience had gone through the same type of rigor and had made very conscious decisions to reject those offered demographic categories created by the politically driven public-school systems, and they were looking for things to think about elsewhere.

Education is supposed to ignite the thinking process, not to turn it off, and for most of our civilization that is exactly what is happening in our government sponsored schools. They destroy minds, not meaning to, but that is what ends up happening. Later that day after the Millennium Falcon Experience I watched the coverage of the NFL Draft on Fox and I’ll have to say that it wasn’t nearly as rooted in reality as Star Wars was. The people drinking too much beer and spending most of their free time thinking about the statistics of the various players offered were participating in a fantasy much less real than seeing the Millennium Falcon up close. Star Wars fans have evolved as a rebellious rejection of that static public education offerings. The NFL draft was just a big reality television show that promoted the schools the athletes came from advertising those universities for millions of young people who might be inspired to spend $100K on an education to get a decent job at the places that produced these gladiators of the NFL. But honestly, the Millennium Falcon as presented at NKU to promote a new movie coming out soon was a lot more real, and much more positive for the intellects of the participants—and that should say a lot about the world we are living in.

We’ve made a tremendous mistake as a human civilization in establishing to people through their educations that they should give up the ideas of youth and to accept the limited offerings established by our governments through their education systems. We have tried it so many different ways and they all end in failures—in most cases middle class earners who makes six figures in household income who drink too much on NFL draft night over a grill cooking hamburgers in the back yard and think that is the definition of success. Star Wars and other pop culture entertainments have simply done a better job in creating foundation mythologies that the human intellect truly craves for the unending yearning for adventure and exploration. Those adventurous desires are what fuel all invention and take it from me, I just received a patent that I had led a team to realize just last week, so I understand what I’m saying in scope of human endeavor. It all starts with imagination and adventure which is specific to human minds and it is in our fantasies that we do a better job than our official educations in harnessing those powers. But it shouldn’t be that way. I bought three things over the past two weeks that made me very happy, one was a new gun that cost well over $2000. Then I bought a little Hot Wheels Millennium Falcon and a new Han Solo landspeeder for about $5 each—and they equally made me very happy. One is notably a very “adult” thing to buy, the other two are associated with the desires of children. But I can say that I enjoyed those purchases equally, and I think that is an essential need that any active intellect has—it wants to be fed stimuli—not junk food, or alcohol, but intellectual stimulation that provokes thought. Regarding education moving into the rest of this century and into the next, all over the world, we need to end this nonsense about “growing up.” What public education means when they encourage people to “grow up,” is that they intend to turn off minds, not to turn them on. And until that happens, I will be against our government endorsed education systems, both K-12 and the college experience, because they are not adequate in their objectives into preparing human beings for the kind of world we all want. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the Millennium Falcon Experience did a much better job.

Rich Hoffman
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