Razor Blades, Critical Thinking, and History

We need to be aware that the world has not always been as it is today.

The innumerable ways that things have been done in the past, like during the 1950s, will make sense if examined and thought about instead of criticized. For example, cabinet manufacturers once provided an easy fix for the disposing of double-edged, still-sharp razor blades.

Courtesy Maggard Razor Blades

Because the metal medicine cabinets were recessed between wall studs, the makers of up-scale bathroom fixtures placed a small slit in the upper middle back of each cabinet. The slit was just large enough to deposit used, double-edged razor blades. It was a good and workable solution for what might otherwise be potentially dangerous for an unsuspecting child or adult.

Shave with it, drop it in the slot, and prevent a finger from being harmed.

Flash forward. A few days ago, a local newspaper ran a story about a realtor who discovered one of those cabinets mentioned above. While assessing a partially renovated home, an electrician told the realtor about what was sticking out of a wall. The realtor rushed to see what had been found and, soon thereafter, researched the phenomenon.

It was a curious, but not an unusual, find. A few years earlier, a person from across the country discovered the very same device, took a photo of it, and posted it on TikTok. Her post resulted in 3.8 million views and almost 3,000 comments.

Yes, things were done differently years ago, often for a sound reason, too.

I understand that not everyone is knowledgeable of residential life during the 1950s, and I applaud the realtor for conducting what passes for as research in today’s Internet world. He learned something by doing it, and he admitted that he had. But he also went on to say, “It’s just weird, and we would never think of doing it at all today–at least, I hope not.”

Well, again, we need to consider the times. Patients were at one time bled as a cure for illness.

While I understand that the past can look ‘weird’ when considered through the lens of contemporary life, as a teacher, I always tried to make the comparisons relevant to my students and me.

I began each new year searching for my students’ birth year events. When thinking of the year they were born, I was more aware of their experiences and exposures. The knowledge helped me be more sensitive to what had helped form my students.

From that hallmark, we moved forward as I taught them to fill in gaps in their historical knowledge and think critically of their time, as well as of times past.

I thought about that teaching practice as I read about the realtor and the millions of those TikTok viewers. All three experiences represent the importance of developing critical thinking skills and knowing/appreciating history.

We need to be aware that the world has not always been as it is today.

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