Education: July 2011 Archives

An early Happy Independence Day to one and all!

There are fireworks somewhere around Tulsa every night this weekend, and Tasha has the definitive list of Tulsa's 4th of July 2011 fireworks celebrations, with links to parking and traffic information for the bigger displays.

There's more to the weekend than just fireworks, and Tasha's got that list, too. One interesting Saturday item: Gilcrease Museum is screening 1776, the movie version of the musical about the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Full of memorable lyrics and melodies, it's one of our favorite musicals. ("Someone oughta open up a window!")

I hope all of us will take the time this weekend to remember the reason for the season. My wife pointed me to a blog entry about Independence Day as recorded in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town on the Prairie:

Consider this passage from the story in which a local politician is chosen to read the entire Declaration of Independence to the crowd:
Laura and Carrie knew the Declaration by heart, of course, but it gave them a solemn, glorious feeling to hear the words. They took hold of hands and stood listening in the solemnly listening crowd. The Stars and Stripes were fluttering bright against the thin, clear blue overhead, and their minds were saying the words before their ears heard them.
As I read this passage to my family, I realized that these pioneers took it for granted that the Declaration of Independence would be read in its entirety every July 4th. More than that, they assumed that everyone in the crowd had it memorized and would be silently reciting the words along with the reader. Having this annual celebration and a shared cultural document makes this a crowd of ardent patriots, and binds them together in a unified community....

For Laura Ingalls Wilder, the combined reading of the Declaration of Independence and the singing of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" sparked new thoughts about freedom as she contemplated words which were old and familiar.

The crowd was scattering away then, but Laura stood stock still. Suddenly she had a completely new thought. The Declaration and the song came together in her mind, and she thought: God is America's king. She thought: Americans won't obey any king on earth. Americans are free. That means they have to obey their own consciences. No king bosses Pa; he has to boss himself. Why (she thought), when I am a little older, Pa and Ma will stop telling me what to do, and there isn't anyone else who has a right to give me orders. I will have to make myself be good. Her whole mind seemed to be lighted up by that thought. This is what it means to be free. It means, you have to be good. 'Our father's God, author of liberty--'The laws of Nature and of Nature's God endow you with a right to life and liberty. Then you have to keep the laws of God, for God's law is the only thing that gives you a right to be free.

Blogger Jennifer Courtney points out that this sort of insight is the product of the traditional emphasis on memorization in the early years of school, the grammar stage of the classical trivium:

This transition for Laura is a perfect illustration of a child moving from the grammar stage (memorizing and reciting the songs and the Declaration) to the logic stage. Her solid foundation in American history gave her a firm basis for later thinking big thoughts about the idea of freedom. She reasons out the source of freedom and rightly draws conclusions about the both the liberties and the restrictions of handling freedom properly.

Rote memorization has been trashed by progressive educators for a century or so, but learning texts like these by heart helped children internalize the ideals contained within and made them resistant to those who would undermine our founding principles. (Maybe that's why progressive educators trash memorization.)

So amidst the heat of the day and the celebrations, remember our founders, and their bold resolve to make our nation free.

And keep safe. Stay away from the blue-green algae.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Education category from July 2011.

Education: June 2011 is the previous archive.

Education: September 2011 is the next archive.

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