Elbow Room

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)



Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts takes a look at the old Schoolhouse Rock video Elbow Room:

We watched this with our youngest while back, and my older boys – having come in contact with modern educational standards – dropped their jaws.  We had it when they were little, but didn’t watch it that much.  When we watched it this time, they said wow, did you really learn that Westward expansion was a good thing?  When they were in school, this was compared to Lebensraum.  Manifest Destiny?  That’s like praising Mein Kampf.  Did we really think it was good?

Yeah, we did.  Not that we didn’t admit to the bad.  I remember learning about the Trail of Tears all the way back in the mid-70s.  And we weren’t the first to generation hear about it.  Same with slavery.  It isn’t as if Americans thought slavery was an awesome chapter in our history before Roots.  America has been wrestling with the more sordid episodes in its history pretty much from the beginning.  Heck, we even learned that Manifest Destiny wasn’t all that and a bag of chips.  What makes it different today is that there is nothing but sheer condemnation.   We were not a great nation with evil and injustice in its past, increasingly we are seen as an evil, racist nation with only the slightest hope of redeeming itself.

It would be better if we learned American history the way we learn about Islam.  Their high school World History book laid out the template.  Sure, the Islamic world launched invasions and conquests, indulged in a vibrant slave trade and even made multiple attempts at invading Europe.  But let’s not dwell on the negatives (which the textbook didn’t).  Those don’t define Islam.  Most of the lesson was on the nuts and bolts, or on the positives.  Which is good. If only we applied that standard to US history, imagine how youngsters might see things today. (more…)

Published in: on September 9, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Elbow Room

Elbow Room from SchoolHouse Rock.  One of the interesting What Ifs of American History is if there had been no Louisiana Purchase.  The Purchase took place during the one year peace of Amiens between Great Britain and Napoleonic France.  If the purchase hadn’t taken place, I could easily imagine the Brits having taken New Orleans from France.  In that case, perhaps a battle of New Orleans would have been fought during the War of 1812 in which Andrew Jackson was attempting to seize the city from the British. Napoleon agreed to the Purchase in part because he viewed America as a rival of Great Britain.  At the conclusion of the Purchase he said, “This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride.”[

Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Elbow Room  
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Revolution, Independence and Schoolhouse Rock

I loved these schoolhouse rock videos when they were first broadcast back in the Seventies right before the bicentennial.  Among a fair number of kids I knew they sparked an interest in history.  Of the videos, I believe No More Kings has the catchiest tune.  For a cartoon, The Shot Heard Round the World does a fairly good job of conveying information about the Revolution in a very short span of time:  it manages to include the opening battles of the war, Washington as the central figure of the war, the role of the militia, the endurance of the Continentals, the battle of Trenton, Valley Forge, the frequent defeats of the Americans, the importance of diplomacy and foreign intervention, and the decisive victory at Yorktown.  Fireworks is a nice opening view of the Declaration for kids.  If readers have kids, or if, like me, part of them has never really grown up, watching these cartoons can be a good way to get into the Fourth of July spirit !

Published in: on July 2, 2010 at 5:26 am  Comments Off on Revolution, Independence and Schoolhouse Rock  
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The Preamble

From Schoolhouse Rock.  For those preferring a more dramatic, or histrionic, reading:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 5:03 am  Comments Off on The Preamble  
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No More Kings

As a tie-in to my A Just War post of yesterday, the Schoolhouse Rock No More Kings.

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 6:25 am  Comments (5)  
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Schoolhouse Rock: American Revolution

Not a bad capsule summary of the American Revolution for a cartoon.  It manages to include the opening battles of the war, Washington as the central figure of the war, the role of the militia, the endurance of the Continentals, the battle of Trenton, Valley Forge, the frequent defeats of the Americans, the importance of diplomacy and foreign intervention, and the decisive victory at Yorktown.  Not bad, as I also thought when I watched it as a child, and it spurred me on to learning more about the Revolution.

Published in: on November 20, 2009 at 5:10 am  Comments (3)  
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