I was eight years old when the Sept. 11 attacks happened. See, some people belonging to the terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes. Two were crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and a fourth plane heading to Washington DC was brought down in a field in Pennsylvania by some of the brave passengers on board.
None of this was taught to me in school. None of it. My teachers had almost 10 years to tell me about it, and I graduated without a single teacher telling me what the president’s “War on Terror” was. But they sure talked my ear off about the Battle of Saratoga.
I only found out what happened on Sept. 11 because I happened to be curious. I asked my parents.
They gave me a rough explanation and I went on my way. Because of that 10 minutes they spent talking to me, I was 10 minutes smarter than anyone I went to class with.
It’s not that the Battle of Saratoga isn’t important. Heck, it was the turning point of the Revolution. It got France on our side, for Pete’s sake. It is, however, kind of harmful when we fixate on the past to the point of ignoring our present. School turned us all into Uncle Rico from “Napoleon Dynamite.” — always thinking about ’82.
I’m not sure what today’s third graders are being taught. Hopefully they’re learning about 9/11 by now, but that’s not good enough. Today’s third graders need to know what’s going on in Russia and Ukraine.
History repeats itself, so we need to learn it. Unfortunately, history is useless if you don’t tie it in with what we’re dealing with now. If we don’t tell kids how Saratoga led up to this, history just becomes another fantasy story that has nothing to do with us. Christopher Columbus might as well be Frodo Baggins. For whatever reason, grade school history all seems to have the blurry World War II cutoff.
Many schools have a “Current Events” elective class where they can read a local newspaper while the football coach/teacher takes a nap at his desk. That’s not a class. It’s one step above watching Spongebob to learn marine biology.
Obviously, real history teachers can’t teach current events because standardized tests don’t include what happened in the past week. However, standardized tests rarely fall on the last day of class. They are normally at least a few weeks earlier.
I propose that as soon as standardized tests end, history classes devote the rest of the class to recent events, even if it’s five days.
If today’s children were taught about current events, two trends would take place. The first trend is, children would start caring about history. If ancient history is “Lord of the Rings” to these kids, then imagine how excited they would be to find out that “Lord of the Rings” not only has a sequel, but it never ended. In fact, they’re part of it now.
Because of this first trend, a second will follow. When these kids are of voting age, they might actually vote. They might even vaguely care what is happening in the world.
At 21 years old, I’m just now starting to care. If I’d had a head start, who knows — maybe I’d know what I was talking about.