by Ray Raphael.
The New Press: NY, 2001.
My youngest son is high school age now. I wish I had had this book year ago when the other two were studying history. (One still does on his own.) It is a truer depiction of the American Revolution than most in our country will ever encounter.
I disagree with the way history is taught in American schools. I have never seen a textbook that has enough depth to say that any category was sufficiently covered. Further, American history has surface dressing for years through elementary, and a little more in middle school, to the point that when the students are finally capable of understanding the complexity of events, they are thoroughly sick of the subject. Unless they happen to have a fantastic teacher or are exposed to an unusual source, they no longer care. Consequently, our people are ignorant in the subject of history and have little desire to read historical books. I would, instead, have a textbook as a summary to be used only as a starting point. I would also have a running list of books that are accessible (maturity-wise and physically through libraries and other sources), a recommendation list broken down by time periods or subjects. I would require that a certain number of books be read, but some flexibility is required to ensure continued interest. Not everyone has the same interests. Accessibility, exposure and guidance are important in education, but we do not all require the exact same education, nor will we retain the same knowledge when exposed to it. It is more important to stress the fundamentals of learning, so that students (all people) will continue to search and learn beyond the classroom. There should be discussion groups in class (one-on-one discussion if homeschooled). Discussion and writing are how you determine if the students are reading and understanding. History is fascinating! But, truthfully, it wasn't until I was reading on my own that I really believed that.
This book would definitely be on my list. It shows different viewpoints regarding war and separation. It shows war as a nasty business and the ruthlessness of the times. There is no sugarcoating, and there shouldn't be. Schools are teaching such a whitewashing, no wonder our people have such a skewed concept of what war is. All wars, in reality, destroy the areas where they take place. All become civil violence, no matter the starting. This book also shows that this revolution was also a civil war, with the conclusion of opposing citizens forced to leave or be executed. Some of the things I knew or inferred from other readings. This book has details I would never have guessed about. It is very clear about the hostility and devastation that took place. Many sources are letters and newspapers.
An interesting fiction/nonfiction partnering would be this book and The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper, which also shows the civil disagreement and pillaging for supplies. I read another book after this one which picks up where this one leaves off, The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and the Founding of American Democracy by Jeffrey L. Pasley. It also will be on my recommended list. It discusses the rocky beginnings of the new government - the popular dissatisfaction with new legislation and treaties and the impact that the French Revolution was having on that transition period. There was and is disagreement about how much the people should be allowed to influence governmental decisions. This transition is a period glossed over in school. All the more reason to read about it!
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