Friday, August 24, 2012
Words, Words, Words about History
"You don't hate history, you hate the way it was taught to you in high school. Stephen Ambrose
Yesterday, our sons returned to school. Our elder son started junior high school. I'm not sure how that happened. When did he grow fuzz on his upper lip and sprout up almost as tall as I? Soon, he'll be shaving and looking down at me when I yell at him for whining about walking the dog. Soon after that, my only leverage will be to take his car away.
No. No way will that boy drive at 16. I still vividly remember having to rescue him from impossible positions on the monkey bars.
Our younger son started fourth grade. Today, the second day of school, he turned ten.
Time passes. Boys grow. My hair turns gray. George loses his.
But I still remember what it was like to start school. My fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Alexander, a kind woman who had to punish me for reading a library book when I was supposed to be reading a North Carolina history textbook. My seventh-grade English teacher Mrs. Goodes had no problem with my reading The Hobbit, but my seventh-grade social studies teacher Mrs. Waggoner seemed oblivious to how easily her students memorized the Preamble to the Constitution. We all thought we were putting something over on her while we sang the song from Schoolhouse Rock under our breaths during the test.
"We the People [of the United States], in Order to form a more perfect Union...."
As I see only in retrospect, Mrs. Waggoner knew exactly what she was doing.
I didn't hate history, but some of the textbooks made for painful reading. I distinctly remember the eighth-grade text on World History because it was the first textbook that made me slap my own face just to focus on the tedious words about the Hittites and Hammurabi's law code and mummification.
What sort of academic publishing hell produces a textbook that makes mummification boring?
Nick is easily bored in school, but so far, he enjoys history. I pray his enthusiasm carries him through mind-numbing textbooks and the occasional poor teacher.
Jack's main interest in history lies in history's Important People. Ask him about Alexander Graham Bell, and he'll say, "He's dead. I wish I could meet him. He taught the deaf how to speak and invented the telephone." Other than Important People, however, history is lost on Jack.
Whether it's our personal history (the memories of babies wrapped up like burritos and all those first days of school or heroic rescues from playground equipment) or our corporate history (the memories of human greatness and weirdness and evil), history is important because it teaches us where we've been, allows us to contextualize where we are, and gives us a springboard to do better in and have hope for the future.
Just as long as the future doesn't involve motorized vehicles and teenage boys.
What memories do you have of studying history in school?