A friend of mine recently bemoaned the fact that in LA, where she and her family live, her kids spend years learning California history in school. Here on the east coast, California doesn’t even exist in the time period that occupies our kids’ thoughts from grade school through middle school. We have been living in New York for almost two years, my kids are scattered in several grades, and from what I gather, there is nothing much on the history curriculum other than the scintillating period leading up to, and including Colonial America.
From what I also gather, historical relevance aside, there is also nothing duller than Colonial America. Given that it wasn’t that long, nor was it the first (or last) revolution to occur, it is somewhat shocking to me that kids need to spend so much time learning about it and only it. Context aside, if you are teaching revolutions, couldn’t you also throw something saucy in there? Something French? Something Russian? Something Chinese?
Another friend of mine, a Bostonian (who tells me the New York obsession with all things colonial has NOTHING on what happens up in New England), recommended a book about the Romanov family for my boys.
It’s a HUGE hit. What could be better than knowing that this entire gang is gonna lose it at the end of the book? What better villian than Rasputin (who a high school history teacher of mine once called “the Drunk Monk of Siberia”)?? God bless Thomas Paine, but these guys are far more interesting – not only to adolescents, but to their parents. (Interestingly enough, the most interesting thing about Thomas Paine was that he was a rare atheist in a sea of Puritans.)
In any history of Russia, there’s always a point in which the Jews get shafted. One night, while we were reading, we came to a section entitled: “Pogroms.” I asked the boys if they knew what a pogrom was.
Boy number one: “Is it a dance?”
Me: No. It is not a dance. (Although it does sound like something Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy may have done in public, to the accompaniment of a piano.)
Boy number two: “I know! I know! It’s related to Jacob DeGrom, who pitches for the Mets!”
ME: NO! It is in NO WAY related to a baseball player! A POGROM! A POGROM! THINK! (Forget school! How could I have let them get this old without knowing about this?)
Thanks to Candace Fleming, who wrote this terrific book, the boys now know what a pogrom is.
Now, back to the Stamp Act….. (yawn).