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Teaching History in Grade Schools, a Poem by Reed Venrick

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

History Class Begins Again

From the playground where they play,

call the children back to class and school,

teach the lessons they're told to learn

with methodologies as modern as

white-wall boards and pretty pastel walls,

tinted with happy-faces and Disney cartoons,

because the children are sure to better learn

this historical era round—how the many

records of the cultural past are designed, like

how the Persians crossed the hellespont and

tried to storm ancient Greece—not once but twice.

Yes, teach the children so they cannot forget,

how the Romans invaded Gaul and Britannia

and a hundred other places all around the

salty-sea called the Mediterranean, and if

Cleopatra had a palace in Cambridge, UK,

they'd have stormed that drawbridge as well.

So go back, back another time, another term,

quiet the restless children down, remind

them how it's hard to focus when the mind's

racing through the afternoon on junk food,

soda drinks, sugar and salty treats, and

point out how video games and cell phones

addicts the bored and cramps the fingered hand

and how noisy music damages ears. But

teach the most curious ones so they know,

once there rode a general on a gallant horse,

always in vigor with Macedonian youth, who

believed in bridging international cities, proving

that he, Alexander, could rampage his way across

the world and on until the Ganges River blocked

his way and his men finally stood and said—enough!

Learn methods that follow current theory so that

the learning curve flattens enough to allow even

the most bored students to get the message that

Napoleon fired his deadly cannons and spread

his visionary map across the European theatre to force

his continental point, and with his gleaned loot built

monuments that last to this day down on the Champs

Elysee'—all the way to the famed de la Concorde Place,

where one day those children from the UK, Canada

and the USA may stroll in summer groups, when

they do an European tour, after covid-19 gives

the world no more trembles and fevers to fear.

Don't neglect more modern news—how the ole

UK bombed the hell out of Suez, and the ole

USA trashed Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia

to no avail, as well, and, even more modern days

how a leader named Putin grabbed Crimea without

a fight. Yes, show that history is like broken record story—

how wars return like smoldering fires in each century's drought

and border frictions leap out like a plague's second wave.

And by the time the children dine in academic halls,

they should know better than their parents how nations

often operate behind curtains of hypocrisy—never

forget that infamous Balfour agreement of UK and France,

while nations go on waving flags of one-upmanship across

the world—how our governments struggle to maintain their

status quo, while bowing low to the capitalistic one percent

and that all governments seem corrupt in this:

serving themselves—keeping their overpaid jobs,

and building up their pensions to stow sure retirement;

therefore when the brightest students go on to graduate

school, let them research that politics parallels

the dramas of theatre, cinema, journalism; after all

the essence of storytelling is to create conflict, so

let us not forget what Orwell wrote in that essay—

"Human history is a series of actions and reactions."

That is—when one side acts, another side re-acts:

someone aggresses, someone defends—when citizens

walk in protest for their rights, protestors are rebuffed and

shot down by police and units of para-military. So now, quickly,

quickly, no need to wait another semester, call them

in from the playground where they play and run, wave

them in from the turf and fury of the football pitch and

the campus greens—history class must begin again!


Reed Venrick was formerly an English teacher at a Japanese university in Tokyo, Hama-Rikyu garden was his favorite park.


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