Thursday, March 29, 2007


I was really enjoying McCullough's 1776, and decided to share the joy with my Starbucks Barristas. Here are a few things I have noticed about the youth of America.

First, nobody gives a shit about history. Neither did I when I was a kid. But this is more than just dislike; this is bordering on phobia. There were three of them behind the counter, all looking to the floor, contemplating the mystery of their shoes. Fine, I'd keep it to myself.

But then one of them looked up and said, voice dripping with disdain, "Well I heard that the only reason we won that war is because we fought dirty."

Now mind you, this was after he confirmed we were talking about the revolutionary war.

So I have a few questions for my readers, some of which are from the UK and would probably have some more perspective on this. What the hell is he talking about? Is he making reference to the fact that General Howe, as was customary for the war savvy Brits, was taking the winter off when GW crossed the Delaware at Trenton?

And what the hell is being taught at our schools, anyway? How can a kid come out the other end needing to be reminded of the significance of the year of our declared independence? No wonder this state keeps reelecting Ted Kennedy. They probably think he's John F. Kennedy and scratch their heads any time someone says he got killed.

1776 is a very interesting read by the way. It's curious to find that George Washington was no military genius. He had a few brilliant victories for sure, and I'm not being facetious when I say, a few miraculous and well timed retreats. But the man made a few very large blunders that could have cost the war early on. Had the literal winds shifted in those initial battles, or had fog not covered our intentions at crucial moments, we would be answering directly to Tony Blair today.


Kathleen said...

Wow, that's pretty much all I can say. Wow...I despair of the youth of today. I always hated American history (probably because we kept covering the same patch of land/time from the sixth grade through high school), but I at least knew 1776 was the year of the Revolutionary War and I've never heard we "cheated." Um, besides, isn't there an old cliche, "All's fair in love and war."

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that our kids are getting taught anything at all in schools... Children in Australia don't even know why we celebrate Australia Day. They just know we have fireworks. 'Tis sad.

Scott said...

As Kat, says, we seem to be taught a narrow strip of history in our schools, so that it is more of a labor after a while to even pay attention. At least that's how I remember it.

Perhaps educators should consider a fresh approach to history. I remember an old movie where a crazy substitute teacher (Burt from the old Soap series) gets the kids involved in reenactments. He came to school in some historical guise and spoke to the students in character of who he was impersonating. He was George Washington in the movie, yelling, "What river are we on?" The kids yelled, "The Delaware!"

You know -- fun!

Jaye Wells said...

You know I agree with the kid. Washington never should have sent that, like, condom horse thingie to the Germans during the Tet Offensive. It was totally whack, dude.

Bernita said...

Some are being taught that all war is bad, and therefore all people in them are evil, crooked, etc.

magnetbabe said...

When are you going to read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States?!?!
I think all it takes is some maturity. Usually I am of the same opinion about the state of our youth. But it was only 10 years ago that I hated HATED history in the same way you described. Maturing helped that a lot.

jenbeauty said...

Washington was a very lucky soul who was in the right places at the right time.

I love history, stuck in a couple different periods right now.

I posted some pictures Scott, you get to see what a 40 year old koko looks like! LOL

Scott said...

Jaye - And then Thomas Jefferson said, let's go to America and make up a few cool rules of our own. Or something like that.

Bernita - It's good to teach that diplomacy should be used when possible, but to say war is out of the question is naive.

Nat - How come I get the feeling the book should be titled "America is the root of all evil and here is why." I still love you (in the appropriate way of course!), and I still have to pick it up, but I get the feeling it will be a hard pill for me to swallow. Do you have an answer for me? It's ok to guess...

Jen - That's the feeling I got too, after reading 1776. It couldn't have all been luck, so I want to be careful not to oversimplify. I suppose though, that all success is tempered with some amount of luck.

Over to check out the photos now!

magnetbabe said...

No, Scott. You have to look at it a different way. Zinn isn't saying America is the root of all evil. Quite the contrary, he asserts that the American people collectively are a courageous, brave people with a very different story to tell than the textbooks. Now the people in charge, they come off as corrupt, self-serving and arrogant, of course. One of Zinn's (and my own) big complaint is that taking the side of the little guy, which often means fighting the Goliath, is often perceived as unpatriotic. But you already knew how I felt about that...

Scott said...

That makes perfect sense, Nat. I think some people are unpatriotic in every sense of word; but I can see how that label could be misapplied. You should see the back lash I got for saying Al Gore's movie had a point to make.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

It sounds like you needed to question the youth further as to his meaning.

How can you not 'fight dirty' in a war of independence?

Surely, a revolutionary force HAS to be underhand to gain an advantage over the incumbent government?

Go back and ask him.

Scott said...

Toast - If I get the opportunity, I'll do just that. But I agree. Define dirty, and define exactly how one should shackle oneself in the interest of fair play when so much is at stake.

Toni Anderson said...

And your point is?

Just kidding. I don't know what the guy selling coffee was talking about...cheating? GW? Say it isn't so :)

Maybe the 'youth' are going through that ashamed-of-their-country phase which is common enough especially during a conflict when their peers are dying. Britain has gone through it so much that until recently the only people who waved the Union Jack were the National Front party and if that isn't a damn shame I don't know what is.

Scott, you got backlash about Al? Hah. Well I'm not surprised, but can't help but be disappointed in people. Sheesh, when was that other war again--the one that fought for freedom and democracy?

mr. schprock said...

Actually, the way I heard it, the Americans used guerilla tactics (i.e., not wearing uniforms, shooting from behind trees and rocks, sabotage, surprise raids, etc.), which ran counter to the British way of thinking, which meant two regular armies meeting in formation on a battlefield and duking it out that way. What we did, while effective, wasn't quite "cricket," and, therefore, dirty. Sort of like those pesky militias in Iraq and Afganistan.

Or at least that's what I remember from my high school US History class, which I took some 33 years ago.

Holy Christ! 33 years!

Try asking kids how many feet are in a mile, or what were the years of the Civil War, or what is pi? Results will vary.

Scott said...

That's a good answer Mr. Schprock. Pi, by the way, is 3.141517 to the best of my recollection, give or take a hundred thousandth.

I think we didn't have uniforms, at least at first, because we barely had the funding for any army. Not sure if it was intentionally done to hide from the enemy. Not saying that wasn't the intention.

It's funny you mention Iraq, a parallel I've been drawing lately. The one major difference I see here is that many of the combatants in Iraq opposing the occupation are not from Iraq, but from surrounding nations. That, and the fact that we don't intend to stay.

33 years? We're not getting any younger, Mr. Schprock.

Anonymous said...

In Canada we are taught that a significant reason that the USA won the revolutionary war was because american insurgents used guerilla tactics utilising the landscape, while the British attempted to fight all battles in the "gentleman's" manner. So you fought dirty because there were a lot of american rural folk taking pot shots at off-duty British soldiers? I don't know if this is really "fighting dirty", rebel commanders weren't really in charge of this sort of thing. But perhaps this is what they were thinking of.