I read an interesting opinion piece by Dr. William Bennett. Bill Bennett was a part of the Reagan administration cabinet and has written some terrific books about American history, especially enjoyable for young people.
The teaching of American history to today's students is especially of interest to Bennett. He is hoping to get his set of books, Volumes I and II of America: The Last Best Hope, in classrooms across the country as tools for teachers. I agree with his opinion that American history is not taught to its fullest advantage today. While some of our history is doom and gloom, the uplifting parts of our nation's history, which far outweigh the gloomy parts, is often given short sighted lessons and not taught with enthusiasm. Students are most responsive to interesting stories with characters who come alive for them. Is there anything worse than a dry, boring lecture on history?
With the vast array of characters presented through out our history, it truly does a disservice to the student not to spark an imagination and encourage further interest in our history, our government and our everyday heroes.
"For indeed, we are not living in the toughest of times, we are not living in the worst of times, nor are we fighting the toughest of wars. But try telling that to our nation's young people; too many of them absorb too much of the negativism taught by our culture to know this." "The truth is, we've been in far worse shape in terms of what we've had to endure in this country - but we may not have been in far worse shape in terms of what we know about our country. To many of our high-school students do not graduate high school, and of those who do, too many do not know the basic facts of their own country's history."
"Too many of our nation's adults have taken too dark a view of their country and have not seen fit to transmit her story down to the next generation. Too many in our culture would rather point out our nation's failings than its successes. And in our schools, too many textbooks on American history are politically one-sided (turning off those with opposing political views). Worse, and more often, many of them are just plain boring." It's true. Lots of today's teachers don't even use a complete textbook in class. They use some supplements which can be good or not. Last year my son was in his junior year of high school and one 'supplement' was Howard Zinn's book on American history, which I found offensive due to the outright liberal bias. History is history. Facts are facts. Opinions are not facts. American historians do no favor to students by pushing the negative view over the positive view."
The reason why authors such as David McCullough and Michael Beschloss are so successful with book buyers and readers is that they tell the stories without any noticeable bent one way or the other. They are true historians and teachers. I also think that is the appeal of the History Channel. It offers history as it happened, the good, the bad and the ugly.
I admire Dr. Bennett's knowledge and grasp of American history. He tells a good story. He points out that our country is full of everyday heroes who never receive the recognition they are so worthy of, not just politicians or community leaders. He has a radio talk show I'm able to listen to towards the end of it as I'm in the car driving my son to school. In some cities around the country groups of women have formed who enjoy the show and the topics discussed. They are called Saturday Morning in (whatever city). The one here met last Saturday morning and I was able to attend. They are breakfast meetings and the fellowship of like minded women is stimulating. Ours was a mix of women from different parts of town and different occupations. The founder of our chapter is an attorney, working part time now, self-employed. She lead us through various topics and spoke of an upcoming service project.
This group is going to put together packages for Soldier's Angels, a very worthy non-profit that distributes mail and packages to soldiers who may not otherwise receive anything from home. One member is collecting Christmas cards at next month's meeting to send to recovering soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital in D.C. I look forward to participating in these projects. I've done such things before and I always feel it is the least I can do for them. It is an easy way to support the troops.
Interested in sending along Christmas cards to wounded soldiers? You are free to sign them as you wish and include a note or not. It's a great way to use leftover cards in your drawer. Who doesn't have a box with a few laying around?
A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20307-5001
The member coordinating our cards will put them together in a box and mail them off together with those she collects from her work. She has her whole medical office building getting into the spirit.
The spirit of the season.