sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

June 8, 2011

Legal Insurrection Hits a Sore Spot

Filed under: education, parenting — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 5:05 pm

Professor Jacobson demands that Obama recite a Longfellow poem about Paul Revere by memory (Via the ever-terrific linker PJ Mom).  The chances of our President knowing this poem or knowing about it are about the same as mystery hacker placing a lewd picture in a tweeter account of a random Democratic Representative.  Laugh all you want, but since Obama went to a Christian school abroad, and it was four decades ago, I suspect he at some point was required to memorize an English language poem or two.

In the Soviet Union we were required to memorize Pushkin, Krylov and Shevchenko among others.  We absorbed our literary heritage and learned how to use Russian and Ukrainian language best.  We were required to recite the poems in front of the whole class.  Quite a few students, including myself, were shy, but fear of public speaking was unheard of.

My four-year-old learned a few songs in her pre-school, which should be considered a good start.  Unfortunately, her education will not follow the same path as mine.  Not because there are no good poems in the English language, but because educational experts long ago decided poetry is not important.  How can teachers require children to memorize a great children’s poem like Robert Luis Stevenson’s Keepsake Mill when they are bound to get depressed about missing a real childhood:

Over the borders, a sin without pardon,
Breaking the branches and crawling below,
Out through the breach in the wall of the garden,
Down by the banks of the river we go.

Here is a mill with the humming of thunder,
Here is the weir with the wonder of foam,
Here is the sluice with the race running under–
Marvellous places, though handy to home!

Sounds of the village grow stiller and stiller,
Stiller the note of the birds on the hill;
Dusty and dim are the eyes of the miller,
Deaf are his ears with the moil of the mill.

Years may go by, and the wheel in the river
Wheel as it wheels for us, children, to-day,
Wheel and keep roaring and foaming for ever
Long after all of the boys are away.

Home for the Indies and home from the ocean,
Heroes and soldiers we all will come home;
Still we shall find the old mill wheel in motion,
Turning and churning that river to foam.

You with the bean that I gave when we quarreled,
I with your marble of Saturday last,
Honoured and old and all gaily appareled,
Here we shall meet and remember the past.

Boys, who are quite obviously victims of child neglect, are exploring the world, breaking rules, working out their problems among themselves and dreaming of being heroes.  Oh, and the word “gay” which is now verboten.

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