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What are our kids (not) learning?

July 17, 2009

This post is long overdue.  I promised on July 4th, I’d write it the very next day.

Funny how real life has a way of messing with our plans, huh?

So, another “Independence Day” has come and gone; another year in our country’s lifespan.  I had a very eye-opening personal experience that to me shows we are getting farther and farther from what our country was founded for in the first place.

During 4th of July dinner, when we were playing Sousa marches in the backyard, pursuing the American pasttime of searing flesh over hot coals, and listening to the far (and not so far) off booms of the M-80’s exploding around the neighborhood, we got into a discussion with the kids about the true meaning of this national holiday.

Middle daughter, who has just finished 5th grade, at the top of her class AND in an advanced program has gained THIS understanding of Independence Day (I paraphrase, but you’ll get the idea):

  • The 4th of July is when America was born.  It’s when all 50 states and all 13 colonies were finally “together.”  She went further to explain that this was symbolized by our flag which finally had our 50 states and 13 colonies all repsented on it.
  • Next I asked her about the Declaration of Independence.  Well, she’d heard of it. They talked about it in class.  “We learned it was important. It declared our freedom.”  I asked her about freedom from WHOM and she told me, well, they never “got to” that in class.

Is this troubling anyone else?  I had a chat with a dear friend of mine the year that eldest daughter was going into 5th grade because I had concerns about what my kids were learning — or not — in school.  This former Assistant Superintendent assured me that 5th grade was when the kids would really start learning the important things about our country.  I had fond memories of my own 5th grade, where we did reports on each of the Presidents of the United States, did our states’ reports and studies, and generally learned the basics about civics such as the three branches of our nation’s government.

Apparently our kids today don’t get that — or at least — not yet?  They have studied the lifecycles of slugs and isopods (fancy word for “sowbug”).  They did 5 weeks on ancient civilizations and played a fantasy game with it (my daughter’s group were the Mesopotamians). They’ve studied Native American tripes several years in a row…but what have they learned about the United States, how we came to be, why — not much.  Oh, but they were shown a video that explains the “facts” of Global Warming — Al Gor’s “An Inconvenient Truth” no less!  I guess since he was Vice President that helps them relate to our government and our country’s leaders, right?

I’m not trying to knock “other knowledge” because I’m sure they are learning things that are both valuable and interesting. But, I’m not sure how slugs and isopods will help my kids be better citizens, learn to judge why they live in this country, what’s important about it, and how our government, laws and legislation work. Maybe they’ll say about that: “Well, we knew it was important but we didn’t ‘get to’ what was important about it.” There is key learning here that just isn’t happening. 

Sad commentary for our great nation on its 233rd birthday. That too many of its young people don’t get a chance to know you, America, why people fought and died — and continue to do so — because they still believe what our Founding Fathers believed. The Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave.


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