Last fall, after I tried to burn my house down, the fire department came out to check my smoke detectors. I was talking about school and kids with one of the guys and he said, “I’m in the third grade!” I said, “Me, too!” Even though I have a college degree and I feel that I have continued the learning process past my formal school days, I know that I am right there with my oldest child learning things I either never knew or forgot long ago. And since I will be repeating these lessons over and over again to a succession of children, I really can’t imagine that this “new” information, seen through adult eyes, won’t stick with me for much longer than it did the first time I was exposed to it.
Since I use the Baltimore Catechism for religion, and since I was educated in the ’70s and ’80s and that mainly through CCD classes, pretty much everything I teach from that book is stuff I didn’t know. Well…Who made you? God made me. I got that. But the concise and clear answers to much of what we believe and why we believe it were never transmitted to me. I really enjoy religion class.
In math and grammar, I’m happy to report, I haven’t learned much. I have had to check the answer book on occasion to clarify a punctuation rule or a part of speech, but not very often. The teacher’s math book is only used so I can check answers quickly and not because long division or averaging numbers is particularly difficult.
But of all the subjects, Fritz and I share an immense appreciation for history. I liked it back in my school days, too, and studied it quite a bit in high school. In college, I just didn’t have the time to take any classes given my heavy core curriculum load, except for one class, The History of the Low Countries, which I was able to take while studying abroad in Belgium (one of the Low Countries). Awesome class.
In the last three years, history for Fritz has been primarily American History and more specifically the time around the American Revolution. Each year, the curriculum gives more details about the 1700’s and expands the student’s awareness of where that era is in relationship to all of world history. When Fritz was in kindergarten, he summarized his knowledge of history like this: “First there was Adam and Eve, then there was Jesus, then there was George Washington, then there was us.” By now, I’m sure he can name a few more people between Adam and Christ, and our history lessons have exposed him to the Vikings as well as the big players from Europe who claimed the Americas and explored, settled, and fought over them: the Dutch, the Spanish, the French and, of course, the English.
These are lessons that I learned over and over again throughout my school days, but it is great to read about this period of history with a much greater awareness of the global implications of certain events, for example, France’s historical interest in aiding the Americans over the English in our revolution or the American Revolution’s influence on the French Revolution.
One of the books we recently read was If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution. I really like the If You Lived… series. I’ve found them to be chock full of information but written clearly enough for young students to comprehend. At the end of this book, the authors state their intention of presenting a balanced view of the conflict and presenting non-Patriots in a fair manner. On Amazon, reviewers either gave it 5 stars or 1 star, depending on how they felt about the treatment of the Loyalists. Those who thought it was good, thought it was balanced. Those who thought it was bad, felt that the Patriots were portrayed as bad guys and that it only mentions the negative circumstances surrounding the lives of the Loyalists. I will admit that there is little mention of any suffering on the part of the Patriots. According to the book, about one-third of the colonists favored independence, one-third were loyalists, and the remaining third attempted to be neutral. Surely for every Loyalist’s child who wasn’t permitted to go to school, there was a Patriot’s child who had a similar experience. There were pockets of like-minded people, and human beings throughout history are not known for their kind and generous behavior toward those who think differently.
But since the winners write the history books, I don’t feel that a few kind words on behalf of real human beings who had valid reasons for choosing to support the crown will damage a young student’s budding sense of patriotism. And as for myself, this and other literature we read this year have made me ask myself where I would have placed my own loyalties in 1775.
I consider myself fiercely patriotic. I’ve lived “on the economy” in other countries for long enough to know that as bad as it might be here in some ways, it is better than any other alternative. This is home, and it doesn’t matter whether it is Ohio or Virginia or Pennsylvania or New Jersey or Florida or Kansas, it is all home. But Belgium is not Germany is not the Czech Republic is not England and none of them are the United States. I am eternally grateful for all the hard choices made by the people who lived here in the late eighteenth century who suffered, fought and died to create this country. I would really like to think that I would have been a Patriot and would have done my best to contribute to its founding.
But no matter how I look at it, I can not support actions like the Boston Tea Party which breaks both the seventh commandment which forbids the unjust taking of another’s property as well as the 4th commandment which includes obedience to lawful superiors. Perhaps if I were twenty years old in 1775, I would be cheering the heroes of that raid, but I can’t imagine that this 36 year old devout Catholic would be in favor of it. It is one thing to boycott a product and quite another to destroy it.
But in my final analysis, I look at my view of current events. I am conservative and religious and vote accordingly. But I do not always agree with the loudest voices belonging to this side. I don’t agree with every plank in every platform and certainly not with every vote by every Republican in Congress. There are times I think we make some poor choices as a country, but I still think it’s the best place on earth. I think about the polls that show “only” a 39% approval rating for the President, and think I might be in the category of the 59% who disapprove (it’s all how the question is worded…and what about being neutral as an option?). And I compare that to the one-third who supported the American Revolution, and I think the President is doing better than General George Washington would have been doing if the Rasmussen Report had been around back then. I do think I would have been a Patriot, and I have faith that our country, despite the doom and gloom predictions from all sides, will do just fine as we suffer through these difficult years of foreign war and domestic strife.
OK, I’m finishing the 3rd grade, I’ve learned a lot about the American Revolution, and I vote in favor of breaking ties with England. How about you? What grade are you in, what did you learn this year in school, and are you or are you not in favor of the American Revolution?