Practical Solutions Schools Family Tree History

About a practical proposal to improve education by having student learn family tree history in class.



Family Tree History

I was quite distressed at dinner one night when my 13-year-old son revealed to my wife and me that he thought American history was "boring." He told us that "the people who lived back then" were "different from us." They were "old-fashioned." I was just about to give him a finger-wagging lecture about what my father had told me about the importance of history when I realized that my son probably thought of his own grandfather as "old-fashioned" and "different from us." My father died before my son was born, and I guess the only time I ever spoke of him was during my finger-wagging lectures.

I asked my boy to bring me his American history textbook, and when I looked through it, I began to see my son's problem. My wife and I are members of an ethnic group that came to America in the big immigration wave around the turn of the century. It doesn't matter which ethnic group we are. The point is that when I flipped through my son's history book, I came across the same events that I studied when I was his age: the Indians, the Mayflower, the Puritans, the revolution against England, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction. I'm not saying these subjects aren't important, but the fact is that there's more to it. My son is being taught someone else's history! The later immigrants and their histories were dismissed in eight pages in this textbook, which quickly went on to the robber barons and W.W.I.

Anyway, here is my solution to the problem of history classes. Each student should be required to take a Family Tree History class, in which he would interview his parents, his grandparents, and any other surviving relatives about what their lives were really like. Then each student would give an oral report to the class about the history of his or her family and how its members finally came to settle in the area. I am sure the stories would be a whole lot more interesting than another rehashing of the landing at Plymouth Rock. And the students would get to learn the history of the hardworking, everyday people they see on the streets instead of just the history of politicians, millionaires, and generals.

Name and address withheld by request

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