sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

September 9, 2014

Things I Learned This Summer

1. The reassuring wisdom of Darling Husband is immense. Darling Daughter won a coloring contest this summer. She’s not without an artistic streak, but in the case of this particular project, she dialed it in. When we turned in her work, we thought she would learn a lesson when she finds out that she blew it because she didn’t do her best. Imagine our surprise when DH received a message that she got first place in her age category. Oh no, is she going to rest on her laurels now?
We congratulated her, but then told her that she needs to consider that not enough kids entered the contest, and that she needs to try harder next time if she wants to keep winning. I guess I have my issues. After a few days DH told me to chill: She learned an important life lesson, that, as Woody Allen said, 90% of success is showing up.
“Although,” DH quickly added, “Woody Allen tried to take his words back and made an entire documentary to repudiate it. Not to repudiate that he slept with his daughter or anything like that, but to repudiate that he believes that 90% of success is showing up.”
2. To further quote my husband, if open concept homes are such a good idea, how come nobody thought of it before? These days flippers try to demolish every wall in the house, save bedroom walls. Open concept houses look nice and zen, and they sell like hot cakes because buyers find it easy to imagine themselves living in spacious, light-filled homes.
The reality of living in them is different, and once moved in, owners begin carving out rooms of their own, mancaves, and other areas to escape family members. Also, open concept homes are not good when it comes to containing mess.
3. Who is Joel Gott?
4. Local governments can be pretty darn ridiculous. We decided to remove an old chimney on our roof, and the contractor told us that because it’s visible from the street, he’s not comfortable working without a permit. So I went to the City Hall and payed a hefty fee. The clerk told me about the paperwork I’m required to submit.
“Do you know Photoshop?” She inquired. She asked me to take pictures of the roof from various vantage points and submit them for review together with the pictures where the chimney is photoshopped out.
After I turned in my paperwork, they sent letters to our neighbors asking if they don’t mind if we remove the chimney. Next they told me to post the permit application in front of our house and mail them the picture of the posted permit.
Finally, the City Hall also wants to know if I plan to close the gaping hole in my roof and how.
5. Who is Joel Gott?
6. нет пророка в своем отечестве. I’m Putin’s troll. Or so say some of my compatriots when I point out certain… Problems with their understanding of the place where I happen to be born and raised. The place happened to be eastern Ukraine.
Everything Ukraine is pretty much inside baseball. What I hear again and again that there once was a country called Ukraine that Russia took over, starved a whole bunch of Ukrainians and brought Russians in their place, and that’s how Russians ended up in Ukraine. It’s true about Holodomor.
I do believe that we should had dispatched Kissinger to negotiate unified unaligned Ukraine and to assure Russia’s assistance in the Middle East. To risk a nuclear war (or even an economic downturn) over strongly Russian-leaning regions in a country with intractable corruption and social problem and no unifying national identity does seem a bit excessive to this blogger — and that’s why I’m Putin’s troll.
DH, again, quips that he’s still waiting for his paycheck from ZOG, and now where is his paycheck from FSB?
7. We have a new neighborhood school now. It the old one was Tijuana meets Hanoi, the new one is Portlandia. I have to say I prefer the latter because something like education does take place in it.
8. My children got in trouble this summer for simulating a gun with their hands and saying “Poof!” Daddy explained that when he was young, he had a holster with two guns in it and he played World War Two with his brother. Ah, the good old days!
9. Encouraging an ostensibly independent 7-year-old to walk down the block on her own can be a challenge these days. At first DD like the idea, but after some consideration she said “who’s going to watch me?” I told her that when I was her age and I wanted to play, I didn’t pester (ok, I used different language) my mom about my availability (her language) for play dates, I just went outside.
Next thing I know, she rolled on her scooter out of the park. That’s more like it.
…we are not fully moved in and unpacked. My desktop is not configured yet, and I hate typing on my mini, so I can’t say I’m back to blogging.

March 13, 2014

Why I Can’t See Myself Homeschooling, Even Though I Kind of Am

Filed under: education, parenting — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:15 pm

A few weeks ago, I attempted to show my 6-year-old how to sew.  When I was her age, I knew how fabric was made and had the basics of needlework down.  I tried to show my daughter how make certain stitches and planned on helping her to sew a small toy.  I don’t know why I was under the impression that she would listen to instructions.  She immediately decided that she wanted to make a more sophisticated toy, and that she could do it all on her own.

First, I panicked, because OMG she’s setting herself up for failure. Then I figured that maybe she needs to fail and learn from it.  Only she didn’t really fail.  First, she asked me to thread her needle, a process in which she had no interest.  I showed her that she needs a knot at the end of her thread, which she watched me tie.  Then she proceeded to making a toy out of a sock, occasionally asking me for assistance with some technical details.  I finished off some of the elements (like tying the knots on the other end of the thread) when she was done and wasn’t even looking.  Her “pet” turned out touchingly crude, and she was very disappointed in some of her failures in the process, but at the end she succeeded.  All on her own.  I’m very proud of her, but she took on an open-ended project.  I can’t teach math or spelling in this manner.

But I am teaching her math and spelling.  When I went to school, I did homework on my own and was graded for each assignment.  Now I find that all parents supervise homework, and that homework is not graded because that would amount to grading parents. I frequently find myself explaining rather than reviewing.  I find that basic penmanship was never consistently taught, and for that reason I have to break the bad habits she’s already developed.  Why did I ever assume that a public school teaches students?  In the best schools in our area, students are red-shirted and start kindergarten already knowing how to read.  They don’t learn in school, they learn for school, often in private tutoring that starts at kindergarten or earlier.

/End rant

September 21, 2013

Endangered Primordials

Filed under: education, environmentalism, politics — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:05 pm

From time to time I have an urge to go all Soviet on my kids.  Though my mom might disagree, I think I was far more disciplined when I was their age.  For instance, they waste loads of computer paper.  They take a whole bunch for drawing, don’t use most of it, and don’t bother to return what’s left.  They are too proud to draw on the back of an already used paper, and while I think I already lost that battle, I hate picking up slightly bent and somewhat soiled unused sheets that also don’t pass muster for them.  It all seems like a huge waste to me.  I don’t recall myself wasting so much paper, which, I think, was because it was related to me early on that we are not going to spend extra on it.  But everything is plentiful in this country.

It rained today in the Bay Area, a September rain is pretty much unheard of.  I am going to assume that it must be the new pattern of global cooling, because if my liberal neighbors get to attribute everything to global warming, now it’s my turn.  Like liberals I’m going to guilt trip the little ones into proper environmentalist behavior.  I’m going to tell my kids that if they waste any more paper, the dinosaurs will die off.

September 7, 2013

Shame and Loathing in Kharkov

Filed under: education, Soviet Union — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 3:30 pm

This Monday was Labor Day in the US, but our number one geo-political enemy celebrated the Day of Knowledge.  Before the Soviet Union croaked and it became necessary to spruce up the old Soviet holidays, the occasion wasn’t known as the Day of Knowledge.  It was simply September 1, the first day of the new school year, celebrated on the first weekday of September.  It was, and it still is, a huge deal for the entire country.  The high point of the day is the quaintly sexist assembly during which the tallest and the strongest Senior boy carries the cutest littlest first grade girl on his shoulder in front of fellow schoolmates, parents and teachers lined up around the perimeter of the school yard, and the girl, outfitted in holiday uniform and giant white bows, rings a bell.

Somewhere in Russia in 2011. Imagine perfect childhood

There is much to say about this holiday, which, on balance, was not bad, and I’ll post about it one day.  What got me reminiscing is an Instapundit link to an essay on culture shock by a student from India.  This is how he chose to start:

  • Nobody talks about grades here.
  • Everyone is highly private about their accomplishments and failures. Someone’s performance in any field is their performance alone. This is different compared to India where people flaunt their riches and share their accomplishments with everybody else.
Of all things American he singled out that, and oh, how I understand him.  When I was growing up in Kharkov, Soviet Union, we had no notion of grade privacy.  It’s not just that inquiring about a classmate’s grades wasn’t bad form, we didn’t’ need to.  Our grades were announced in front of the whole class or posted next to our names in a hallway.  Students who did well were often praised in front of the collective, while those at the bottom were shamed.
All teachers, including the nice ones, discussed our grades — such was the custom; most shamed students, and some did so with gusto.  I recall my 8th grade Russian lit teacher taking entire class hour to belittle a student for using words and expressions she didn’t understand.  The girl survived the humiliation, and, being a happily average girl, kept pulling average grades through high school.  The teacher, I’m pretty sure, was KGB because a) somebody in our school had to be KGB and b) her husband was a general, and they spent several years in Cuba.
(Not all abuse in my school was strictly emotional.  Most of the spanking went to troubled kids, about which I didn’t feel particularly bad then, and don’t feel particularly bad now, even though I realize in a long term this kind of discipline was probably useless.  But once my elementary school teacher hit a quiet, lonely girl for not following directions.  That episode remained ingrained in my mind because I didn’t understand why the teacher hurt her.  In retrospect I realize that the girl was autistic, and the teacher, who had 37 of us in her classroom, lost her temper.)
Before the onset of puberty, shaming discouraged failure in certain cases and prompted many middle of the road students to improve their grades.  What kid wants to be called a “fool” and a “cretin” in front of his friends?  Even those of us who were pretty sure we wouldn’t be singled out, set trembling as our elementary school teacher, a stunningly attractive woman with hourglass body, announced test marks.  Now she’s going through the bundle of 5’s (out of 5, that is), and now 4’s, and then 3’s.  We’d rather hear a 4 than a 3.
An unintended effect of shaming was discouragement of achievement.  Once we grew up a bit and got more introspective, we started talking of rather having a 2, the failing grade, than a 3.  A 2 looks like we didn’t care, but 3 made it seem like we tried, but didn’t get very far.
And think of it from the perspective of the student who regularly flunks a tests: he, a 7-year-old son of an alcoholic mother and no known dad, already resigned himself to be the whipping post of the teacher whom he hates, fears and admires at the same time.  But as soon as she’s done with him, some smarty pants kid, the one who gets a yummy sandwich out of his briefcase every afternoon at lunchtime, gets praise.  What, he thinks he’s better than everyone else?  Guess what, the delinquent also needs an outlet.
I, for one, allied myself with not too bright girls who were on good terms with the hooligans, and allowed them to copy my tests just so that they could put in a good word for me.  I also made sure to get a few 4’s each quarter.
In grade school, we were already well on our way of embracing mediocrity, disliking being both on top and on the bottom.  It’s not just that the Soviet economic system disincentivized achievement, and political system punished it, the entire culture was driven by envy and at odds with anything or anybody who dares to be extraordinary.
Add to it the ethnic dimension.  Not all Jews were nerds and there was no shortage of uber-brainy Russians or Ukrainians, but often, and stereotypically, the kid with exemplary grades had dark curls and sad eyes and his tormenters were Slavs.  And even if an otlichnik (a straight A student) was not himself a yid, at least not to his knowledge, it was no guarantee that racial epithets won’t fly when the hooligans give him what was coming.  Any questions about  the Soviet brain drain?
There is much not to like about American schools, particularly the insidious self-respect movement that treats students as fragile little things who need to be showered with praise.  Well, at least I can reasonably expect that teachers will respect my children’s humanity.

May 8, 2013

American Zoo

Filed under: education, politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:02 am

Once upon a time in Boston a colony of Russian-speaking Muslims assimilated a Colombian student.  Some of the young men planned to bomb a 4th of July event, but built their bomb quicker than expected.  You know the rest.

And why would that Colombian fellow choose to be an American anyway?  Well, yes, technically, he, like the younger Tsarnaev brother, had American citizenship, but quite obviously his heart was elsewhere.

The other day Drudge had a headline about “Redneck Day” in some educational establishment in Arizona:

When members of the student council at an Arizona high school organized a schoolwide “Redneck Day” and encouraged classmates to dress — and spoof — accordingly, they hoped to build school spirit leading up to prom week.

Instead, “Redneck Day” at Queen Creek High School has angered African-Americans and civil-rights leaders and touched off a debate about free speech, social stereotypes and good taste.

Drudge’s headline was about somebody being angry, and, I assumed it was the people who object to terms “redneck” and “white trash”.  The reason public schools no longer celebrate any meaningful holidays is because they bound to make somebody offended — or at least “not included”.  My daughter’s elementary school, for instance, doesn’t celebrate Christmas or Halloween.  Those are called — I kid you not — “winter festival” and “fall festival”, and the later has a whiff of Day of The Dead for a good measure.

Oddly enough, the school finds it possible to celebrate Chinese New Year.  At the party one of the teachers felt obliged to read a segment that sounded suspiciously like a Wikipedia entry.  She informed us that other countries have holidays at around that time too, like the Vietnamese Tet.  (She didn’t mention Purim which we celebrated the following day — tisk-tisk-tisk.)  Why should Chinese New Year get special treatment, I don’t know.  There is a very large Asian community in our town, but doubt a single town resident of Asian extraction lobbied the school district to celebrate Chinese New Year.  Plurality of Asian Americans are Christian, and there is no lack of churches around here that advertise services in Chinese or Korean.  And in any event, I noticed that Buddhists find it very easy to have Christmas trees in their houses.

Kindergarten students get exposed to several other holidays.  Since Fourth of July festivities take in summer, the school district is not obligated to deal with that.  Presidents’ Day hardly gets a mention.  Thanksgiving is the occasion to chastise the Pilgrims.  Martin Luther King looms large. Per their recollection, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s on-again, off-again mosque once praised the civil rights leader.  But MLK was not interesting enough to this hothead, and who can blame him?  While the preacher was an important historical figure, he’s hardly a foundational leader.  Plus, his non-violence (and there is place non-violence in this world) has limited appeal to boys.

Once all references to Christianity and patriotism are removed, the school builds “school spirit” with an array of inconsequential elective carnivals.  Children are encouraged to wear pink and red on Valentine’s day.  Then there was the dreaded pajamas day and a multicultural picnic, for which we, the foreign born moms, are expected to bring exotic dishes.  The only festivity we could get behind was the Read Across America Day that falls on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday.  We love Seuss, and reading is a worthy cause.  Apparently, the kindergarteners spontaneously engaged in some sort of Cat in A Hat game — how cool is that?  And how lucky was Dr. Seuss to be a liberal.  Had a conservative wrote the same poems (and a conservative could easily write most of them) he’d never get this kind of appreciation.

Our school is hardly most ridiculous.  A friend’s daughter is attending a public elementary school in Orange County.  There, the school district holds regular anti-drug theme days.  Children are encouraged to dress up in costumes and teachers lead discussions about why drugs are bad.  One of such theme was the 60’s.  No, really.

One of my pet peeves is absence of school uniforms.  In another recent news, Jared Marcum, a high school student in West Virginia was arrested and suspended for wearing an NRA t-shirt.  I sympathize with Jared’s cause, and an NRA t-shirt is far more innocent than, say, a band t-shirt because all band t-shirts refer to controlled substances and promiscuity inherent in rock-n-roll.  (Yes, my children will be allowed to wear band t-shirts).  Some schools, particularly the ones with gang problems, prohibit all writing on articles of clothes.  That’s a good start.  Day-to-day experience of grade schools students should be less about self-expression and current happenings and more about academic excellence.

In American public schools juvenile self-absorption and ironic pop culture references loom large and cliques rule.  It’s a hard landscape for a foreigner to navigate, even if he wants to assimilate and is eager to learn English.  Many on the left ditch any discussion of assimilation; they take it as a given that American mass culture is omnipresent and will absorb everyone.  While there obviously exists a global market for blue jeans and increasingly moronic Hollywood cinema, the culture of this country can not be reduced to these.  And contemporary public school culture promotes cliquishness, including ethnic cliquishness.

Russian speakers like to describe American public schools as “zoos”, and we don’t have private schools in high regard either.  There is little wonder that Tamerlan Tsarnaev bragged about not having American friends (even if he had no problems making a white American woman his first bride).  Instead of figuring out how to bring more people into the country or how to pass naturalization certificates to those who came here illegally, we should figure out how to assimilate the new-comers already on track to citizenship.

March 15, 2013

My Kitchen — My Rules

Filed under: Bay Area politics, education, environmentalism, politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:41 pm

What I love about Victor Davis Hanson is the breadth of his knowledge.  In his recent column Hanson described the emerging medieval social and political organization of California (via Leslie Eastman).  This structure rests on a “medieval” Pacific Coast state of mind, with environmentalism being one of the key orthodoxies of the increasingly unenlightened Golden State.

I have the misfortune to watch the environmentalist indoctrination in making.  The recent grocery bag ban enacted by the Alameda County is the most recent sour spot.  The ban, designed to eventually supplant all “single use” grocery bags, stirs residents of our counties (actually many municipalities in our state are heading this way) towards the use of grocery totes.  Considering that the practice creates a public safety hazard, the fact that the now illegal plastic bags are probably more environmentally sound than any alternatives looks like a minor point.  But the most egregious aspect of the prohibition is the effect on individual liberty.  All of a sudden, what I do in the privacy of my own kitchen becomes everyone’s business.

Scratch that.  Not “all of a sudden”.  Personal has long been political, and our kitchens have been sniffed out by the PC police for quite some time.  The government on all levels throws its weight around in favor of particular classes of appliances.  American law requires food labeling, and these requirements are becoming increasingly more extensive.  Considering the amount of social pressure to buy local and/or organic products, and the political outlook of the individuals who put this pressure on each other, a law prescribing the sale of politically correct groceries will be cheered on by a large segment of the California population.  Just as well.  We, California women, bought into the personal is political doctrine, so we have to reconcile with the political in our personal.  The kitchens, traditionally a personal domain of women, are now invaded by the PC police.

If a mom is not careful, her kids might act as an arm of the PC police — kind of like the kosher police.  An essentially secular in-law of mine enrolled her son in an Hasidim-run Jewish school with the reputation for academic excellency.  In a short time the boy took to inspecting her pots and giving her advise on how to run her kitchen.  Although she resented it then, towards the end of her life the auntie turned pretty religious and started keeping kosher.  Now, environmentalism is unlike a religion in that the older we get the less likely we are to accept it.  And so mothers of students enrolled in public schools might find themselves going through some dead-end nagging.  But, because unlike religion, environmentalism does not create a sense of connection with the past, mothers should feel in no way compelled to accept the dogma pushed on family kitchens through the educational establishment.

My daughter’s kindergarten class were once  subject to a f propaganda barrage connected with the bag ban.  And now I read about a posh local elementary that was visited by representatives of a local environmentalist group, who, I gather, gave them a talk on pros and cons of the ban.  All students of this posh elementary are above grade level, and all parents are the low level California aristocracy.  Don’t tell them you don’t shop at Whole Foods.

The fifth-graders were so impressed by the talk, they spontaneously decided to write letters to the newspaper to argue pros and cons of the bag ban.  For some not at all obvious reason, the overwhelming majority of letters were in support of the law.  The minority opinion was mostly concerned with relative advantages of recycling various material (the online version of the paper didn’t include the minority student voice at all).  Either we are so far gone here that there is no hope for us, or the students know something that they hesitated to put on paper.  With their names attached to it.  For everyone to see.  Forever.  Or perhaps what I saw in the paper is only representative of the children of the aristocracy.  Black people don’t care much for environmentally correct practices, and Hispanics think that since the white people ruined the Earth, environmentalism is for the Caucasians.  Well, maybe not all Hispanics, just the ones at UC Berkeley.  Viva la Raza!

As far as I can tell, the fifth graders that weighed in on the ban are well on their way to Berkeley.  For instance, one eager soul writes:

Many people are against it, but I think it’s the best thing that has happened to the county for a while.

Ask your mama if the ban is better than the reelection of Barack Obama.  And check out this budding statist:

The bag ban is amazing — a perfect way to motivate us to use reusable bags. It’s a great way to make a cleaner and greener world. So keep the bag ban up and running.

I wonder if they discuss, in their “social studies” class, what the Founders would think of the government motivating we, the people, to transport our groceries in a specific manner.

We tell our kids that we expect them to learn math, reading and writing at school, and that everything else is just someone’s opinion.  I will take responsibility for introducing them to great literature, science and history.  I just hope their teacher doesn’t press them into a letter writing campaign.

February 21, 2013

Alienation Nation

Among the reasons to study history two stand out: To avoid repeating past errors and to hold on to the great accomplishments of our civilization.

Now, my kindergartener doesn’t take any history classes.  She is, however, exposed to some sort of soulless union-approved social studies-like curriculum.  Our first taste of it was the MLK Day last month.  She came home impressed by the lesson on segregation and the freedom rides.  I had to cringe at the fact that this was the way the CA educational behemoth chose to introduce her to American history.  Yet slavery and segregation were a reality, and children should know about them.  Her second encounter with American history was right before President’s Day when her music teacher taught the class “Yankee Doodle”.

Our local library also commemorated MLK Day, and for the whole month of January books about the Civil Rights leader were displayed prominently in their children’s section.  When we came back to the library last weekend to check out a book about George Washington, the same kind of books were still on display, now for the Black History Month.  Since it was Presidents’ Day weekend, three books about the US Presidents were also prominently exhibited — about 20% of all promoted literature.

I got a few tips on how to talk to a 5-year-old about George Washington and made up something like a lesson plan.  I wanted a colorful book to use as an illustration.  My idea was to go through the book editing out some details and filling in here and there, and I figured A Picture Book of George Washington would do.  That’s how we ended up with a candidate for the dreariest book on the subject (save for the pictures, which were charming, although, on the second thought, I should have used something from the period).

Unfortunately, this day and age telling children that George Washington couldn’t tell a lie is tantamount to child abuse.  Instead David Adler, the critically acclaimed author of many children’s book on multiple historical topics, penned a short story with a flair of a middle-school textbook.  We learn, for instance, that:

George learned to read and write in school.  He practiced his handwriting by copying lists of rules such as “Keep your fingers clean” and “Think before you speak.”  But his favorite subject was arithmetic.

Handwriting… arithmetic…  We have computers now and our minds are freed to do exiting creative things!  The pupils of 2013 should be happy that their enlightened elders developed subjects like finger-painting.  Although, I have to say, 5 y/o DD loves to copy writing.  For instance, if I make a to-do list, she will copy my entries in the open spaces, making it all but impossible to figure out the errands.  I guess I need to move more into the 21st century direction and discourage her from learning cursive.  And seriously, if Washington’s schooling was so dumb, how come he turned out to be so wise?  Adler doesn’t tell.

I ended up skipping that part about the rules, even though DD could benefit from doing more of that “Think before you speak” thing — beloved historical figures can make good role models.  I enjoyed stopping to explain certain paragraphs in greater detail.  We talked of the 13 colonies that were all on the East Coast and set up by the Englishmen, and the fact that the 18th century life expectancy was short and many kids were forced to grow up early (Washington’s father died when he was eleven).

I had to introduce my own topics because Adler mentioned neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution by name.  The following was said about the outbreak of the Revolutionary war:

The English won their war against the French.  King George III of England wanted the American colonies to help pay the cost of the was, so he taxed them.

American colonists refused to pay the taxes.  In Boston, colonists dumped tea into the harbor rather than pay the tax on it.

It doesn’t matter so much that the tax was to pay for the war (Adler is practically obsessed with wars, paying for wars and avoiding wars).  What matters is that the colonists felt that they are being taxed without having a say in it.  It’s a shame that the Boston Tea Party, a truly fascinating event by any measure, was short-changed in Adler’s treatment.  I understand that children’s books have word limits, but a little more excitement and a little more detail can inspire lifelong love of history.

About the Constitution:

The thirteen colonies became thirteen states.  They joined together and formed a government, but it was weak.  In 1787 a new government was formed with a congress, a supreme court and a president.  George Washington was the best-known, most loved leader in America.  He was elected the first president of the United States of America in 1789.  He was reelected in 1792.

Separation of powers is a good place to start talking about the Constitution, but where, for instance, is the Bill of Rights?  Or federalism?

Of Washington’s terms in office:

President George Washington signed treaties with the Indians, Spain and England.  There was war in Europe, but George Washington kept the United States out of it.  When some farmers in Pennsylvania refused to pay tax for whiskey, George Washington sent soldiers to force the farmers to obey the law.

If children read this book sans a commentary by an informed adult, they are bound to be confused.  What is a youngster to think when he finds out that the colonists refused to pay the King’s tax, and that wars are bad, but yet our very first President waged the war on his own people for refusing to pay taxes?  Is he going to conclude that disobeying the law is no big deal?  I couldn’t think of a good way of relating “no taxation without representation” to my 5-year-old, so I skipped the page altogether.  We did talk about fairness and self-government.

I can see a child walking away with an impression that George Washington was some sort of a monster who lived in dreary times, and giving up on both the country and the discipline of history.  Adler conveys no excitement, no sense of glory.  Although A Picture Book of George Washington was first published in 1989, many of today’s teachers and parents were raised in 70s and the 80s on similar literature. (And many parents, like me, were raised abroad.)  They wouldn’t know how to talk about American history.  As a result, we have a second generation of kids growing up alienated from their heritage.

Take the case of my daughter who, if I were to leave it up to her public school and Adler, would know about segregation, but not the Constitution.  Count me among those who think it’s strange that Martin Luther King is the only historic figure who got a whole day dedicated to him.  He is an important person to know about, but not of the caliber of, say, Ben Franklin.  I always thought that Franklin really personified the American spirit — an inventor and a self-stater, a free spirit with a keen sense of humor and a sense of justice.  Why is he short-changed?

Maybe we can have a Freedom Riders Day and a Presidents Day on top of the Founders Day all occurring within the school year?  This way the teachers union can bargain for an additional day off while music teachers get to drop in a few words about the likes of Franklin.  Venerable Jimmy Carter, Millard Fillmore, Chester A. Arthur and Woodrow Wilson can still celebrate the fact that they were elected, and I can have my children at home with me.

This 4th of July I’ll attempt something different.  We will look at the Constitution together, and maybe look at some 18th century American art.  This way my children will be real historians, working with primary sources.  I will report the outcome.

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