Column: The Whiteboard Jungle: Today, more than ever, U.S. citizens need to share experiences


How many of you remember this TV jingle?

Hot Dogs … Armour Hot Dogs; What kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs?

Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks; Tough kids, sissy kids; even kids with chicken pox;

Love hot dogs, Armour Hot Dogs; the dog kids love to bite.

Written by Clay Warnick and titled “The Dog Kids Love to Bite,” you would probably have to be at least 50 years old to recall this ditty.

Examining the lyrics, there’s no way this song would pass muster (not mustard) in today’s times, which includes fat shaming and gay shaming. Shows you how different the era we live in.

Such a song captured a majority of Americans’ fancy, ingrained as part of their collective TV memory, something that would be challenging to do nowadays.

The water-cooler effect, of people excited to share with their fellow co-workers something that was on TV the previous night, united a group of unlike people.

“Did you see the game?” “Did you hear what Carson said?” “Who shot J.R.?” are echoes from the past, a past when the regular happenings in America were discussed among all people.

We may come from different heritages, but finding common ground made us Americans.

Such sharing is impossible today. There is not much to bring us together.

People tailor-make their own lives, self-absorbed in watching what they want when they want to, selecting radio, TV and Internet fare that reflect only their views.

In effect, they are standing at the water cooler talking to themselves — no need to be part of the American experience.

In the 1960s, there was the generation gap; today, we have an identity gap.

Nearly 70% of Americans think that America’s identity is fading away based on a poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Sure, the Pledge of Allegiance is still recited at schools, though students can’t be forced to say it or stand for it. But civics curriculum, learning the duties of citizenship, is no longer required.

Nearly half of all Americans say grace before a meal a few times a week based on a recent survey by the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, but the other half does not.

Multilingual ballots and product packaging enable immigrants to get by without knowing English.

And only one-third of citizens think that the USA is the best country in the world; that means two-thirds do not.

These are troubling numbers.

As the country has become more diverse, it has become more divided, proved with the past presidential election. These fissures prevent us from forming common ground.

New York Times columnist David Brooks recently addressed the loss of identity related to race.

“We have to emphasize identities people have in common, [build] an empathetic relationship [so] people can learn one another’s racial experiences naturally,” he wrote.

Brooks said that “rebinding the nation means finding shared identities.”

In other words, sharing experiences.

At least for the Fourth of July, we can all share a holiday weekend, eat hot dogs and be reminded that what happened 241 years ago has brought us to this day.

That’s a beginning.

BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of “Smart Kids, Bad Schools” and “The $100,00 Teacher.” He can be reached at