Did You Know Mexico Lost California in a Single Paragraph?

“Did you know Mexico lost California in a single paragraph?” Riley chuckled as we sat sipping decadent coffee drinks topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings at the Neighborhood Cup.  Riley was reading a chapter from his history text book, “American Vision”, preparing for his exam when he blurted out this hysterical remark.  I was trying to write a blog about my annual girl’s weekend in Prescott but almost choked on my coffee after this comment.   Hilarious and sad, I thought.  Years of war with Mexico, a very dark time in history, extremely controversial and many lives lost all in one paragraph.  I decided to shift gears in mid-sentence and ditch my girl’s weekend blog and write about this sad state of affairs.  Sorry girls.

While continuously reading his text and getting down to the bottom of our coffee mugs Riley was getting more and more frustrated.  He didn’t understand how The Civil War, five years of brutal battles over slavery and state rights, enough blood, sweat and tears to fill ten libraries could be condensed into five pages.  There is only one paragraph written about The Underground Railroad and two sentences about one of the bravest women of our times, Harriet Tubman.  Nowhere does it describe how Harriet was whipped and beaten by her masters.  How she escaped to the North and was free, only to choose to go back to the south and rescue seventy more slaves knowing that if she were caught she would be brutally killed or worse, enslaved again.  The text completely misses the true human story.  It cuts every narrative short delivering bland facts, dates and names.  No wonder most Americans don’t know much about history.  Between these dumb down texts and state standards, history is no longer “His Story” it is simply “history”, lost to the past. 

For further evidence of this “dumbing down” that is taking place, just watch Jay Lenno’s “Jay Walk”, his street side pop quizzes.  He goes out into America and asks ordinary people simple questions about rules for breaking up, vacation spots and yes, history.  Here is a link:


Of course, Riley could find Harriet Tubman’s story elsewhere if he wants to learn more about her.  Or, if a kid is lucky enough to have a history buff as a parent or a really great passionate teacher that passes her love on to her student, then Harriet’s story will be learned.   But let’s face it, not too many people choose to learn more about Harriet Tubman when the text and teacher are boring especially when they can read People magazine, hang out on Facebook or play Xbox.  Honestly, I’d rather read People Magazine than read the text Riley has to read for his class (and I love to read about history).  I know I’m not alone.  So, when you ask most Americans on the street, who was the President during the Civil War, I’m not surprised that you get blank stares.  But, ask what time and channel “American Idol” is on, who sings “Teenage Dream” or who is Ryan Seacrest, well, you get the picture.

One Response to “Did You Know Mexico Lost California in a Single Paragraph?”

  1. clare Says:

    Of course, Deanne, after your amazing bring-it-to-life history classes and your parents’ travel-through-time vacations with the kids, any single text book is going to be dry and virtually meaningless.

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