Saturday, March 5, 2011

More Soapboxing: Great Americans?

You've been warned, so don't read if you don't like my conservative ideas.

This past week, my kids school had their 3rd Grade Wax Museum.  The theme was "Great Americans."  They were supposed to learn about and write a one page report on a great American.  The 3rd grade team, whom I think are all great teachers, sent home a list of suggested great Americans and then said, "If your child doesn't want to be one of these, they need to get approval from us before they write their report."  At the end of the week, they do a "Wax Museum" where the kids dress up as their great American, hold a pose and have a plague at their feet that explains this great American.  The parents and other kids in the school are invited to walk through and learn about these people.   The teachers let there be repeats, so any child can be their favorite great American.  (This year, there were about 10 Sacaguweas).

Well, this year, there was plenty of famous people and not as many "Great Americans."  They have them line up starting at the 1700s and then move to the present day.  As I was walking with my four year old, I was pointing out Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Betsy Ross and Sacaguwea.  As we moved farther along, we got to Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln and later, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Teddy Roosevelt, Laura Ingells Wilder, Annie Sullivan.  Then we hit more modern day, Walt Disney, Shirley Temple (a stretch but in her adult life she did become an ambassador, and became one of the first woman to become outspoken about breast cancer) and even Oprah (while she bugs me, it doesn't mean I can't acknowledge all of the good she has done).

But then, I started to lose it (not literally but in my mind).  We came to Evel Knievel (entertainer, dare devil,  convicted of battery, drug user and abuser), Shawn Johnson (nice enough girl but great American?), and lastly Taylor Swift.  Don't get me wrong, I like her music, check my current playlist, I have several of her songs on it but great American, really?

I see two major problems here.  First, this was an opportunity as parents to work with our kids and teach them about what makes a great American.  It was a time to teach them American history and show them all of the effort and work it took and takes to keep this nation what it is today.  If a child had dressed up as a modern American soldier (which one actually did--Patrick Tilman), I applaud it.  But to confuse popularity with greatness is a mistake.  Are these parents honestly the people raising our children today?  As parents, aren't we obligated to teach our children that true greatness comes from sacrifice, honor and work?

And secondly, while I hesitate to criticize my children's teachers, where was the backbone to the call the parents and say, "I appreciate your desire to spotlight this person but they don't really qualify as a 'Great American'.  The purpose of this exercise is to teach them about Americans who sacrificed and worked for the greater good of their country."  Again, popularity doesn't equal greatness.  In fact, popularity often negates greatness.  Let's look at Charlie Sheen.

Being a parent is hard and teaching correct values and principles is even harder in this current world.   Come on folks, please step up and teach your children what makes America great.  And, it is not popularity alone.


Mark and Heather said...

We had a similar assignment and Grace did Jane Austen (we weren't limited to Americans) but there was a Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. Seriously?!

love.boxes said...

I would have chosen Dolly Madison. I'm not even sure how much I like Teddy Roosevelt. I think the definition of a great American is a person who makes the decision everyday to live honorably and to spread the principles of provident living and liberty in order that more people will be truly free.
Was there a Nathan Hale? The sad thing is that there are so many great Americans whose stories are being completely lost because parents don't know them to pass them along.

Britt said...

Is there room on your soapbox? I'll join you.

Kari said...

Paul Newman. He's my Great American Celebrity, if we have to choose celebrities. Unassuming, down-to-earth and donated millions to charities. (I will say that Taylor Swift impressed me with avoiding talking badly about that other musician who ruined her award acceptance a year back or so, and she also donated $500K to flood victims last year...) For the most part it is pretty obnoxious how we put celebrities on pedestals.