Saturday, November 29, 2008

"The Connecticut Adventure" and other horrors

When I was a child, I assumed our books in school would be boring and I don't remember any exceptions. The text was dull and the illustrations were ugly. The books even smelled different from the books we got at home as presents.

I thought that this had changed until I saw a new social studies book -- THE CONNECTICUT ADVENTURE was its name. I think the title says it all.....but just to be clear: this was no adventure story. It was just as boring as old-style social studies books. Our history is so interesting; I remember as a child being not only fascinated by the Revolution (liberty! freedom! all those grown-ups dressing up and dumping tea into the Boston harbor!) but really believing in all the American ideals we learned in school: checks and balances, liberty, justice, equality, all I learned it, I'm not sure. Maybe from those same boring books, maybe from what my teachers told me. I do remember one teacher explaining, when someone asked about "all MEN" being created equal that the idea of "men" had been gradually expanding since the Declaration of Independence, and that the Constitution had been written so that it could expand. That made sense: it was during my childhood that the Civil Rights Movement was starting to succeed, it was a hopeful time. But then all that progress seemed to stop and like many people my age, I lost my pride in my country during the Vietnam War era -- but I've always been glad I had it as a child.

So I was a little taken aback when I was flipping through one of Adam's books and our history was told ONLY in terms of all the terrible things the colonists and later Americans did. Of course, they did those things. But they did also try to form a new nation, based on ideas that were radically different from any other endeavors going on at the time....growing up ashamed of your country (as I think many people born after, say, 1960?) have is a sad way to feel. I've certainly hated feeling that shame for all these years!

Obama's election has made me believe in America again -- to think that maybe our system really can work the way it was meant to. I wonder if anyone else feels the same way? And if now, we can not only "form a more perfect Union" but put some of the hope and pride we feel into our textbooks, too.

1 comment:

Anna Alter said...

As a kid growing up in the 70's I definitely didn't feel much patriotism, and thought my history books were a bore as well. It really wasn't til I got older that I got fascinated with learning about the past. And I have to say I don't think I've ever felt as patriotic as I did the night Obama got elected!