Sunday, April 29, 2007

History Written by the Winners

Lizzie's school has a really fun and interactive way for the kids to explore the history of Ellis Island. Kids are randomly assigned to "family" groups and are responsible for determining the relationship of each person in their family. Lizzie was originally the mother of her family but all of her "children" thought she should be at least forty years old. She told them "no, that's too old" and opted to be a twenty-nine year old older sister instead.

On "immigration day," the children must all dress like immigrants for the voyage and subsequently navigate their way through Ellis Island, which is a tiny room chosen solely because of its limited holding capacity (only a dozen kids at a time can enter). Some kids were lucky enough to get their green cards. Others were not so lucky. No green card means a lot of different things during the immigration project: denial of hot lunch and denial of some other classroom perks like free time. This week, Lizzie will apply for citizenship. She has to take a mock citizenship test and be endorsed by a citizen in good standing - either a teacher or parent.

When the TAG coordinator originally told me about the project, I was really intrigued but then concerned about the stress the fifth graders had to endure. No green card = no lunch?! But, the TAG coordinator reassured me that no child has gone hungry while engaged in the project

Another little tidbit that was shared with parents, but not the students, is that the harsh treatment only lasts until the children revolt. Some classes revolt in two weeks. Some classes take longer. Lizzie is having a grand ol' time learning and re-enacting the history of this country, so I think it will be awhile before she gets frustrated to the point of fighting back.

Overall, I think our public school does a fair job of teaching the children history but I do wish more of the "unpopular" history was taught. Definitely black history but I also think the kids should also know about Germany's version of the Boy Scouts and how people are dying every day to enjoy the few freedoms we do have.

So much of our history is distorted and watered down for the sake of the children but really don't our children have a right to know that "liberty and justice for all" really only applies to a select few?

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