Knowledge Of History Means National Pride


First, let us establish who Callista Gingrich is.  She is the current wife of Newt Gingrich, which news reporting at least suggests is a temporary employment. She is a former Washington intern who has created documentaries and media stuff with her husband.

He has a history of finding his next wife before finishing with the last, so if she were my buddy I would tell her that I hope she has a good prenup — or maybe she wants a postnup.

This being said, I agree with this woman on the thesis of this article — assuming she actually wrote it. Often, people in the public eye let someone else “do the paperwork” when they blog, write essays, etc. Ms. Newt says that today’s young kids have an appalling lack of knowledge about the basics of the history of this country, such as why the pilgrims came or who George Washington was.

I just think that this problem is deeper than not teaching.  However cute, I seriously doubt that her creation, “Ellis the Elephant,” is enough to fix this one.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a rabid history buff, rhapsodizing frequently on how much I love the Founding Fathers. I will admit that I have my faves. Thomas Jefferson was a hell of a guy and Benjamin Franklin was a loveable hoot.

The Founding Mothers were great, too. I mean I visited Quincy, MA and hung around in Abigail Adams place for a bit, but you have got to admit that the Founding Mothers just did not get quite as much publicity.

This great love of American History comes from a lot of things that modern students simply do not get.  This is far deeper than school, which is not where I learned to love America.

1.  My family, parents and grandparents, were constantly reminding me that I was an American first and Jewish second. This was a biggie, for my family members, as little as two generations back, got kicked out of other countries for being Jewish.  I was alive and free because I was in America, and nobody was going to let me forget that.  As a matter of fact, my grandmother of blessed memory told me America needed to be “taken care of” because it had provided her with a refuge.  This somehow ended up with both her daughter (my Aunt Sadie of blessed memory) and me joining the U.S. Army Medical Corps in a family where all males seemed to be 4F or otherwise ineligible.

2.  My mother of blessed memory was a history buff and we lived in New England, so I remember early day-trips to places like Concord and Lexington.  I was told how important they were and read the bottom of statues.  My mother did not recite dates or even names to me.  She did something so wonderful that it took me a while to figure out how wonderful it was.

She told me to imagine how it “felt.”  How would I feel if my father of blessed memory had been a farmer, and worked at the plow, and had to dump the plow and grab a musket and go kill British redcoats?

I cannot remember, but I must have been three or so when I told her that it was a good thing that my father had gone to Harvard and was not a farmer.  He was in music.  He could write songs for the war and make people sing them.

Don’t worry, I did figure out what she meant a bit later.

3.  I skipped the fifth grade at gifted children’s school.  I was way ahead and this seemed like a good thing to do, but fifth grade was traditionally when kids learned American (as opposed to world) history in that school, and my mother of blessed memory was afraid I would never know enough American history.

I remembered she had said that years later, when I went to visit Monticello, and when I read a good hunk of Thomas Jefferson’s original library —  the first material to form what is now The Library of Congress — on microfilm at the library in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

4.  I have always been a fan of primary historical documents — what people said during their era.  I once owned a book where people had written their thoughts about Abraham Lincoln being shot.  I loved Benjamin Franklin’s “Autobiography,” at least until I figured out he was not as perfect as he wanted to sound in that book. The curiosity that drove me to read these documents, drove me to think of these people as real human beings, who had walked the earth some of the same steps as me, too.

I have never known anyone else who felt this way.

5.  I am proud — really proud — of being American.  I went to a ritzy girls’ school where many kids traced their lineage back to the Mayflower.  I told them that my grandmother came on a later boat.  Sometimes I even told them she did not exactly have fun and games on board. I took up the uniform of my country.  Had there been a war, I could have died. I took the oath and would have fulfilled it, if so ordered. Doctors weren’t necessarily safe or protected during battle — I knew nobody would read the card in my pocket that identified me as a doctor before shooting, if they felt like shooting.

It is only now that I question that pride.

In science and medicine, and maybe in other spheres such as social legislation, we are falling behind other countries.

I have to love the America that can be.  The America that has, at least for now, fallen short.

I love the America that I have to believe can, and will catch up; and once again, supersede, by clinging to the wonderful ideals of our Founding Parents.

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