If there is anything that the average American knows about his own country's history, it's that what he learned in the sixth grade is good enough. If they want to go any deeper, they'll wait for the movie.
Most of us couldn't tell why Davy Crockett died at the Alamo. Here's a hint. It had to do with slavery. The Mexican government had outlawed the practice but it's estimated that one in five Texans at time were slave owners. Yep. Davy was on the wrong side of that debate. Walt Disney never told you that.
The early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts did not dress in black, wear buckles, or wear black steeple hats. That image was formed in the 19th century when buckles were a kind of emblem of quaintness.
Most of us are surprised to learn the signing of the Declaration of Independence did not occur on July 4, 1776. The final language of the document was approved by the Second Continental Congress on that date, it was printed and distributed on July 4 and 5, but the actual signing occurred on August 2, 1776. It's a little like when the electric company sends you a warning they are going to cut your power off on the 30th of the month. The date at the top of the letter says it was sent to you on the second.
I admit, I was surprised to learn the United States Constitution was written on parchment, not hemp paper. Stoners love to tell that one, and some of us bought it hook, line and wheat straw paper.
But let's talk about something that people are getting wrong these days, that has consequences : Today's TeaParty.
Ask anyone today about where this political group got it's name and they will proudly tell you a story about how the People of Boston were so upset about paying unrepresented high taxes on tea. Some people will tell you the story, leaving out the representation and/or the high part say it was a tax revolt, pure and simple.
I blame the schools.
The no representation clause is about the only thing in that paragraph that were relevant or even true. The big issue was The East India Tea Company, a business that was getting preferential treatment from the English Parliament. In essence, Parliament was subsidizing the company.
One of the wealthiest men in the colonies at the time was John Hancock, a noted exporter. Some have said that he was also a noted tea smuggler. Since the English tea was actually cheaper than the smuggled variety, he and lots of other colonist were stuck with tons of Earl Grey they couldn't unload.
Tempers ran high because of the Tea act. On November 5, Hancock was elected as moderator at a Boston town meeting that resolved that anyone who supported the Tea Act was an "Enemy to America"Hancock and others tried to force the resignation of the agents who had been appointed to receive the tea shipments. Unsuccessful in this, they attempted to prevent the tea from being unloaded after three tea ships had arrived in Boston Harbor.
Hancock was at the fateful meeting on December 16, where he reportedly told the crowd, "Let every man do what is right in his own eyes."Hancock did not take part in the Boston Tea Party that night, but he approved of the action, although he was careful not to publicly praise the destruction of private property. Today we call this a CYA moment.
Later that evening a group of colonists boarded the ships and destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor. By the way, apparently only a few of the protesters were dressed as Indians. I'm fine with this, because I always saw that aspect of the story as an act of cowardice . Let's do something significant, and blame it on a group of people who are innocent.
Most of us have a tendency to believe the first story that comes along. I think this is why so many people I've talked to are still in such an uproar about Pluto. I honestly wonder how many people still think babies are brought by the stork.
"That's what I was told and it's good enough for me."
I'm not against this Cliff Notes overview of history in the lower grades, as you should teach a student at a students level. But at least by high school, they should be able to grasp a bigger picture, warts and all.
And if your argument is that teaching the glossed over version is some how more patriotic, here's my question to you.
Since when is the truth un-American?
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad