Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ain't that America

Before I begin this little story, I should probably explain that we live in a community that is about forty percent Asian, many of them first generation Americans who have immigrated here from Taiwan and South Korea. While they embrace the educational opportunities offered to their children and encourage them to learn and speak English, many of them also want to preserve for their children a sense of the culture and language of their ancestors, so they send them to Chinese, Korean, or Japanese language classes after school or on the weekends.

Part of my day of volunteering at my daughter's school included teaching three different small groups their first "social studies" lesson. They were supposed to learn and understand the following vocabulary: primary source, secondary source, document, and artifact. They had a very hard time with it, since they are at an age when they can absorb so much in the way of content and facts and yet they find it difficult to think critically about history as a discipline that involves certain methods of documentation and analysis. I would much prefer, for instance, that they read all sorts of stories about history and important historical figures. But that's a subject for another post.

In the course of trying to convey the concept of primary source, secondary source, and document, I happened to mention the Declaration of Independence. It sounded familiar to some of the children, but only because they had seen the movie National Treasure. I then mentioned George Washington and asked if they had heard of him. Most of them gave me blank looks.

I decided to ask all the groups about George Washington, and was met with the same blank faces each time I mentioned him. (I'll admit my own daughter was an exception, but that's not the point of my story.)

In the last group, however, there was a little girl who told me she had heard of George Washington, and that she knew a story about him. She proceeded to tell the entire story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, and she added that Washington was the first president of the United States. She obviously relished the story and enjoyed telling it to her group.

I thanked her, praised her enthusiastically, and asked her where she had learned that story.

"In Chinese school," was her reply.


Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 25, 2006 9:56 AM  
Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

What age are we talking about? I'd be a bit more worried if these kids didn't know GW AFTER a year of American history.

September 25, 2006 9:59 AM  
Blogger stewdog said...

We can't hold it against the children that they simply haven't had the proper indoctrination to American culture. You can fix that K.M. I recommend you purchase a book for each one that will bring them up to date. It is a Noam Chomsky tome, most recently recommended by the President of Venezuela!

September 25, 2006 1:30 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

It's only second grade, and I don't hold it against the kids at all. They're all adorable. I do sort of hold it against the school district, since from what I can see it'll be a long while before they'll be teaching any American history.

I just loved, though, that the Chinese school was teaching them stuff that their own school hadn't -- and doing it in a way that seems much more congruent with their actual abilities at that age.

September 25, 2006 1:54 PM  
Blogger Madman of Chu said...

Any four year old in China knows that Washington was the Yao of America.

September 25, 2006 4:56 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

I'd settle for four year olds in the U.S. knowing that Washington was the Washington of America. Now, if they also knew that Yao was the Washington of China, that's gravy.

Baby steps, Madman.

September 25, 2006 5:20 PM  
Blogger Madman of Chu said...

Dear Kate Marie,

Actually, Sun Yat-sen was the Washington of China. I'd be happy if Americans got that memo by about the age of 29 or so.

September 26, 2006 6:33 AM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Dear Madman,

Who's Sun Yat-sen? :)

September 26, 2006 11:50 AM  
Anonymous Templeton Peck said... He was one zany dude..

September 26, 2006 2:55 PM  

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