Sunday, November 2, 2014

224. History

            “I see where they are going to quit teaching the history of your country in New York public schools,” C.W. said as we lounged in the living room reading.
            “That’s nice,” I said. Actually I was reading history and half-listening to him. He was in his “lounging form,” a cross between Gore Vidal and how he supposed Charles Darwin would have looked.
            “No, really,” he said. “they say it doesn’t contribute to standardized test results so it doesn’t need to be taught. Is that a good idea?”
            “Some people in …, where did you say? They must think it is.”
            “New York,” he said. “But others will surely follow.”
            “Why do you say that?” He was beginning to draw my attention.
            “Don’t you remember when your people started emphasizing history in public schools?”
            “Years ago?”
            “A big push, according to the article I read, came during what you call World War One.”
            “Oh really?”
            “Seems your people worried that all the new immigrants coming into your country didn’t understand your great history.”
            “And thanks to that effort, so many people now know about the massive employment programs you had back in the early days of your nation for immigrants from underdeveloped countries in Africa.”
            “Employment programs?”
            “Surely you know about those.”
            “Employment programs? That’s what you call them?”
            “That’s what the expert on that news show you don’t like calls them, and he teaches history at a university.”
            “And calls them ‘employment programs?””
            “Sometimes he calls them ‘employment opportunities.’ After all, you did furnish free transportation here, room and board while being trained for work, and a living wage during the process.”
            “And you believe that?”
            “Doesn’t matter what I believe. I’m just an alien. But the folks around here that I talk to believe it. And they vote.”
            “You are making me despondent.”
            “Many of those I talk to also understand, because of the teaching of history, about the war that resulted when northern industrialists decided to confiscate southern farms and eliminate the so-called ‘middle-man’ in manufacturing and food processing.”
            “Say what?”
            “I don’t blame them for resisting. Do you?”
            “Where do you hear such nonsense?”
            “At the coffee shop. You should go with me some time. You could even learn about how hard it was to turn back the hordes of stone-age savages that invaded the country from Russia in the 1600s, trying to annihilate your early settlers.”
            “You know this is bull…, that it is all wrong, don’t you?”
            “So you are saying maybe the teaching of history isn’t such a good idea?”
            “That’s not what I’m saying at all.”
            “What are you saying?”
            I said, “We should try to understand it and learn from it, history that is.”
            “Why? It’s not on the Common Core tests. Why should you teach it? How does knowledge of history help you operate a computer?”
            “It helps,” I said, “understand Americans who changed history, people like Susan B. Anthony, and Abraham Lincoln. In my lifetime, there was Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Dwight Eisenhower, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Kennedy.”
            “Yeah, Lyndon Johnson’s wife paid Charles Manson to kill him, didn’t she?”
            “Where do you hear this stuff?”
            “Different places,” he said. “I get around.”
We'll soon get rid of these antiquated things
called teachers. What part can they play in
passing standardized tests? - C.W.
            “You don’t get around to the library, it seems.”
            “The what?”
            “Oh my god.”
            “Just kidding,” He said. “But don’t worry about the libraries. I heard they cost too much and they are going to shut them down. The authorities can put everything you need to know on your personal computer, according to what career they determine for you.”
            I hung my head. “And just who will determine these careers?”
            “Not who. What.”
            “What will determine these careers?”
            “Why standardized test scores, of course. Michelle Rhee is working on them right now, I hear.”
            “Isn’t that a sort of, oh say … an educational version of a ‘circular firing squad,’ standardized tests determining what courses you should take to pass standardized tests?”
            “Hey,” he said as he started to transmogrify into his favorite form of Reggie the Young Conservative, “it’s your country. I’m just an alien.”

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- C.W.

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