Friday, August 8, 2014

Take the History Tour

It's what makes kids moan about and fear whenever there's a family visit to the city. Any city. Any city with a museum or historical site or old church. Eventually, the parents are going to drag them to somewhere at which they will hear or (gasp!) read something that might be educational or cultural or the least bit intellectual.  They kids know it's coming, that moment when they'll be pulled into some exhibit that one day may be vaguely familiar when a teacher mentions it in class. And as parents, we feel the need to do this, to expose them to culture and history, because, well, just because.

We've done a pretty good balance of the historical and potentially educational sites while on vacation. We visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City and the kids didn't complain. Whether that was because they were actually interested or knew that this site was something they should not complain about, they were respectful and questioning and exploring when we went.
In Boston, we walked the Black History Trail, starting with the 54th Regiment Monument.  Along the route, there were homes where various Black Americans once lived and hid runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad and held abolitionist movement meetings, the first colored school and the first integrated school in the city, the African Meeting House that served as church, community center, political meeting place, and school.  We made our way to the spot that Crispus Attucks died and the Old North Church where Paul Revere instructed the men to hang the lanterns (one if by land...) 
"Why do we have to go? It's so hot. All these hills!" The kids whined.
"Because it's important. This was where the Revolutionary War started.  And these people worked toward ending slavery.  You'll be able to talk about it in school," I said.
"We don't even learn about all this in school, we don't talk about slavery," they reported.
"Well, then that's even more reason why we're here. Keep walking." 
I knew they were going to complain.  I didn't expect that they would have the same excited reaction as when we went to the aquarium, which is just as educational, in a different way. These are the experiences and knowledge, however, to which we want to expose our children. Seeing the Boston harbor will illustrate the point when they learn about the Boston Tea Party.  Understanding that "Glory" wasn't just a movie (although a great one) emphasizes that there were real, live people willing to sacrifice their lives for future generations' freedom even when they weren't even considered full citizens themselves. And now, having made it to New England on vacation, driving, perhaps it's more evident how long a journey it is from a southern (slave) state to a northern free state, and the distance people were willing to walk to escape slavery; and then there's the poster hanging in the museum, warning Bostonians about a law that would allow slave catchers to capture Blacks and take them back to the south as slaves, whether they were free or runaway slaves.  That may or may not come up in the history lessons at school, but it happened.
There's a lot that we want our children to know and understand about our history, culture, religion, world. As parents, that is one of our responsibilities, to teach them and expose them to as much as we can that we feel is important.  Even if they whine and complain.
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