Last week, I had a look at my son’s 5th-grade calificaciones (grades) (See Alternative Homeschooling) and noticed that he had dropped considerably in the subject of Mexican history. How could this be? I asked myself. He is attentive and interested in the stories we discuss at home, the movies we watch, making endless speculation about why this person did this or acted like that and wonders continuously about our own place in the history of La Yacata, our small foundling community. I investigated further and looked over the questions he had missed.
In what year was expropriation of petroleum? What reforms did Congress make during the decade following the revolution? What was the Mexican economic miracle? (Answers to these questions)
Perhaps the gravest defect in school curricula is that they fail to give a comprehensive, intelligent and interesting introduction to history. To leave off or even to begin with the history of our own country is fatal. We can not live sanely unless we know that other peoples are as we are with a difference, that their history is as ours, with a difference, that they too have been represented by their poets and their artists, that they too have their literature and their national life. We have been asleep and our awaking is rather terrible.–Charlotte Mason
Well, that explained it then. This was dead history, no heroes, no battles, no significant achievements to remember. Is it less important for him to learn? Yes, I think so. In memorization dates and facts, he isn’t asked to make sense of what transpired, to understand the whys or hows of it all and as a consequence doesn’t learn history.
It is a great thing to possess a pageant of history in the background of one’s thoughts. We may not be able to recall this or that circumstance, but, ‘the imagination is warmed’; we know that there is a great deal to be said on both sides of every question and are saved from crudities in opinion and rashness in action. The present becomes enriched for us with the wealth of all that has gone before.–Charlotte Mason
In contrast, in our very community, we have the La Yacata, a stone mound dating back to prehispanic Tarasco tribes. My son and I talk often about what it could have been built for, how the people in the region might have lived, what they might have eaten, such as pitayas, nopales, tunas, maiz y frijol (our typical diet), and the changes that came to the area as a result of Spanish invasion.
From there, it is no great stretch of the imagination to see how we are a living part of history. How will those that come after us see our lives and view the contributions or damage we have left behind? (See Revolutionalizing La Yacata and Forcibly Green, Obligatory Organic)
Always and everywhere there have been great parts to play and almost always great men (and women) to play those parts: that any day it may come to anyone to do some service of historical moment to the country (or the world). —Charlotte Mason
So I am not upset at the lower grade when it means so little in the grand scheme of things. As this living way of examining history is lacking in the traditional classroom, it is up to me to make important events come alive in the mind of my son so that my he too may take his place in history, in our family history, in our community history, perhaps even in Mexican history or in the history of the world.
We live in times critical for everybody but eminently critical for teachers because it rests with them to decide whether personal or general good should be aimed at, whether education shall be merely a means of getting on or a means of general progress towards high thinking and plain living and therefore an instrument of the greatest national good. –Charlotte Mason