Monday, June 8, 2009

What Did You learn in School Today?

I have always been interested in history. But there's little I remember of what I was taught in school left in my memory. In those days, we studied ancient history both as a class of it's own and in our Latin classes.

"Veni! Vidi! Vici!" "I came! I saw! I conquered!" That's what Julius Caesar reported when asked about his victory over Pharnaces. That's pretty much the way we learned Modern History and American History. We came, we saw, we conquered. If we, as the good guys, lost a battle or hurt innocent civilians, white, black, brown, or red, it was not part of History.

I remember asking why we didn't study the events of the 2oth century that involved our fathers, uncles, and grandfathers. The answer was, by learning about things that had happened hundreds of years before, we wouldn't be so apt to do them again.

Occasionally, we learned about a brave priest, nun or bishop who had died defending their church during the Spanish American War or The Great War.

But the only heroes of WWII we heard about in 1960 were;

(then Catholic President) John F.Kennedy, who saved his crew mates by swimming and hurting his back and by writing something on a coconut.


(now Saint) Maximilian Kolbe, a brave priest who traded places with a Jewish father and was killed in his place.

We learned about Anne Frank, the only Jewish girl many of my classmates, who had grown up in the very sheltered New England towns of Adams and North Adams had ever heard of, but only because her diary was in the school library.

I had spent my grammar school years in the post- war suburban development of Levittown, PA. There I was "exposed to" families of every faith. My best friend's grandparents had been murdered at Treblinka .

The lady who made us cider and donuts for Halloween treats wore a tattooed number on her arm so that she and those around her would never forget that she had lost her entire family, including her husband and children (who would have been only a couple of years older than me) to the Holocaust.

I knew what that word meant in my own naive, 14 year old fashion. But I never heard it uttered in my high school in Massachusetts.

This is in no way meant to put down my twelve years of Catholic school education. Over at Adams Memorial High they didn't even get to hear of St. Maximilian! My friends down in Levittown, at Wilson High did learn about Woodrow Wilson.

We graduated in 1965. That was only nineteen years after the end of WWII and I had classmates who's fathers were still missing in Korea. We had classmates and brothers about to serve and perish in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Mediterranean. Since then, we have fought in Granada, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait,and other places. My son may have to go to Korea next year.

So I have to wonder if we have learned anything by studying the Peloponnesian Wars and the major battles (won by the North of course) of the American Civil War.

"History repeats itself." our teachers told us.

While I admit that now my two particular areas of historical interest are the 1850s-American West and the first half of the 20th century, I hope the young people today are more aware of their recent past than we were. It seems that the past that keeps repeating is actually still going on.

Stepping off my soapbox now. Another day I'll write about my own interest in History, or Herstory, or even Kidstory.

See ya down the road,


Geezerguy said...

Amen. (My turn to say it.)

~loneduck~ said...

The great thing about history is that, as it is always repeating itself, we know how it ends.


Theresa Bates said...

Very nicely put!