‘Old School’ Is Now In Session — Book Review

Bill O'Reilly (Getty Images)

Anthony Sadar Certified consulting meteorologist
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Old School or Snowflake, which are you?  Which was President Obama?  How about President Trump?

Old School: Life in the Sane Lane by former Fox TV personality Bill O’Reilly and James Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein helps to answer these questions.

But, does the book help to answer: “What’s next for the embattled, dethroned-from-Fox-TV, Bill O’Reilly?”

Let’s deal with the Old School or Snowflake questions first.

Putting aside the fact that Snowflakes would probably be too offended by the title (or perhaps, O’Reilly himself) to even crack the cover of Old School, there’s a real education to be acquired from the schooling found within the book.

First, full disclosure: I am Old School, not just because I grew up in the same era as O’Reilly and Feirstein, but because I resonate with their perspective and perception of life and easily pass their pop quizzes peppering the book.  Besides, my early schooling matched O’Reilly’s quite well–Catholic grade school with rigid but generally fair nuns and an all-boys Catholic high school with rigid but generally fair brothers.  Discipline, a concept foreign to Snowflakes, was the order of the school (and home) day.

Old School coauthors met as students at Boston University in 1974, in the offices of the school paper, The Daily Free Press, conservative O’Reilly as a graduate student and liberal Feirstein as an undergrad.   As Feirstein tells it: “It was a different time in America then, a time when journalists and politicians could actually befriend, and respect, someone on the other side of the political divide, instead of automatically demonizing them, vilifying them, and finding a way to pin a ‘Stalin’ or ‘Hitler’ label on them.”

Feirstein went on to build an impressive resume, early on authoring the hugely popular book, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, and later screenwriting three of the four James Bond films starring Pierce Brosnan.  He is now a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

O’Reilly, besides authoring numerous books including the popular Killing series, is the namesake of the former cable news show, The O’Reilly Factor.

These dialectic authors endorse the Old School way of thinking, so badly needed today, “the idea that someone with a different upbringing, from a different part of the country, with a different outlook and a different viewpoint, might actually have something valid to say, something worth listening to.”


Old School is an education in and of itself.  Within its pages, a student can learn definitions of key internet terms like “hot takes,” “click bait,” and “concern trolling” and Snowflake jargon such as “social justice warrior,” “microaggression,” and “cultural appropriation.”  Moreover, solid Old School graduates are lauded:  George Patton, Willie Mays, Mike Wallace, Oprah, and Clint Eastwood to name a few.

On the other side of the classroom are Snowflakes.

Being a meteorologist (and educator), I know something about snowflakes.  They melt under very little heat. So, the title “Snowflake” is apt.

Whether the heat is in the form of hearing even the slightest difference of opinion, or the perception that someone, somewhere has a different understanding of the world or political viewpoint, melting occurs.  After all, if there is a view different from the Snowflake view, that view is disturbingly wrong.

Throughout the easy-read text of Old School, specific, concrete examples are relayed of hard-knocks situations and appropriate (Old School) and inappropriate (Snowflake) responses to them.  And Old School elucidates some of the history of snowflakery, introducing America’s original snowflake, Martin Van Buren.  Van Buren’s political razzle-dazzling, yet milquetoast disposition, made him Andrew Jackson’s “go-to guy when questionable deals had to be made.”  (There’s more to the Van Buren story, but since the authors claim it’s “a story that will make this entire book worthwhile,” who am I to go on?)

Throughout the history of U.S. presidents, Old Schoolers and Snowflakes have been in charge.  In addition, to Van Buren in the Snowflake column, O’Reilly and Feirstein add John Tyler, the vice-president who succeeded William Henry Harrison who had defeated Van Buren in 1840 but died just thirty-two days after inauguration.

In the Old School presidents’ column the authors list Harrison, Washington, Lincoln, Truman, Reagan, both Bushes, among others.

The O’Reilly and Feirstein “litmus test for an Old School politician is simple: prioritize looking out for the folks over yourself, and stand for something noble.”

As for their classifying of Presidents Obama and Trump, I’m not one to tell tales out of school.

But, now what’s to become of the deposed former star of Fox TV, Bill O’Rielly?

Well, one of the defining characteristics of an Old-Schooler is that he learn from and overcome momentous setbacks, achieving greater success in the future.

Could this be O’Reilly’s moment to prove his mettle and make his alma mater proud?

Anthony J. Sadar is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and author of In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail (Stairway Press, 2016).