Acerbic humor from the 1970s and 1980s by the author of Social Studies and Metropolitan Life.
WASHINGTON, DC – Contrary to what may be popular opinion, Presidents Day was not established to generate sales for America’s retailers. But, the fact of the matter is that many of our schoolchildren can only identify Abraham Lincoln and George Washington from either TV or Presidents Day commercials. They are more likely to know that Lady Gaga headlined the half-time show at this year’s Super Bowl than to appreciate what the holiday commemorates.
David Bruce Smith, an author and publisher, says “there are some who believe the reason is that there is a movement afoot to deemphasize American culture in the schools that favors a worldview. They put the blame on the emphasis placed on STEM education, which prioritizes science, technology, engineering and mathematics as a means of accomplishing that goal. After all, it leaves little room for teaching history.”
Smith co-founded the Grateful American Book Prize in an effort to rejuvenate the love of history– American history in particular. The award is presented each year to authors who seek to encourage curiosity in young learners about the events and personalities that shaped our country over the past 240 years.
As one teacher told New York Post Opinion writer Karol Markowicz: “All the pressure in lower grades is in math and English Language Arts because of the state tests and the weight that they carry.”
Markowicz cites a 2014 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress that showed “an abysmal 18 percent of American high school kids were proficient in US history.” She also notes that “a 2012 story in Perspectives on History magazine by University of North Carolina professor Bruce VanSledright revealed that 88 percent of elementary school teachers considered teaching history a low priority.”
But the blame cannot be placed entirely on the teachers, says Smith. “While many of our children don’t know who Lincoln and Washington were, we live in the age of technology. And so it is not surprising that our schools want to prepare students for a workplace that relies on employees with math-based comprehension. However, we ignore history at a peril to our nation because knowledge of our past is the key component of good, responsible citizenship.”
Writer Markowicz points out there is a national debate focused on how America is in danger of becoming “fractured.” She concludes that the less our children know about “our shared history” the more divided we become.
As we prepare to celebrate Presidents Day, only nine percent of the nation’s fourth graders are able to pick out a picture of Lincoln, and just 23 percent know that Washington was our first President, according to NAEP reports.
“It is interesting to note that the first two winners of the Grateful American Book Prize were Kathy Cannon Wiechman for her Civil War novel, Like a River, in 2015, and Chris Stevenson in 2016 for his novel, The Drum of Destiny. These selections are gripping accounts of the key events over which President Lincoln and President Washington presided, respectively. Their books presented those events in a way that can inspire young readers to learn to love history. The mission of our Prize is to provide an incentive for authors and publishers to produce more books like these—works that encourage our children to explore the past and become knowledgeable, productive—and proud– citizens,” says Smith.
Feb 13, 2017 | Posted by Paul Butler | WBOC’s DelmarvaLife
During Black History Month, many people like to tour historic museums and attractions to learn about the history of our country.
One of the most popular museums to get into on this side of the country is the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Currently, there is a three-month waiting list to get tickets to see the thousands of exhibits at the museum dedicated to telling the the history of African Americans in this country.
However, there are plenty of stories rich in African-American history right here in our own backyard. There are several smaller museums across Delmarva that showcase this history, such as the Charles Sumner Hall in Chestertown, Maryland.
“It’s a special building. Everyone that walks in here can pretty much tell that this is a special place,” said Nina Johnson, executive director of Sumner Hall.
After fighting in the Civil War, 28 African American men returned to Chestertown, and founded Charles Sumner Post #25 of the Grand Army of the Republic.
“There’s a lot of history here in terms of what this building stood for in terms of the community, in terms of helping people, outreach, and doing whatever needed to be done to support people in the community,” said Johnson.
For blacks living in Kent County, this hall later became known as the place to be to watch musical legends perform. Robert Earl Price, member of the Sumner Hall Committee, said he saw many well-known performers pass through the historic place.
“Performer’s of the quality of Ella Fitzgerald and the Sisters of the Rhythm have appeared on the stage inside Sumner Hall,” Price said.
The building had fallen in disrepair through the years, but with support from the community and organizations in Kent County, Maryland worked to bring it back to its glory. Now in great shape, the hall is open to school, church, and community tours.
A little farther south on Maryland’s mid-shore, is the well-known Harriet Tubman Museum & Educational Center in Cambridge. This local monument is a tribute to Tubman, who spent a third of her life in Dorchester County before escaping in 1849. It was shortly thereafter that she started the legendary Underground Railroad.
“During the 50’s up until 1857 she made at least 11 trips within the vicinity of Dorchester County to help members of the Ross family to escape this area,” said William Jarmon, a curator for the museum and education center. “And she was very successful and that she never loss a passenger, as she would say on the Underground Railroad.”
This humble museum in downtown Cambridge is rich in Tubman history, and stories of African Americans from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“We have a wall of portraits of Harriet Tubman which are all after the Civil War,” Jarmon said. “We also have paintings and artwork of what she might have looked like when she was younger.”
Jarmon said that the Museum is great for people of all ages, and interactive tours are done where participants can get on a bus and travel the 125-mile trek Tubman took on the Underground Railroad byway.
Also in Dorchester County, there is a brand new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center opening the weekend of March 11-12. This attraction on 17 acres in Church Creek hopes to tell Tubman’s story in a way that has never been done before.
“Tubman is timeless, she speaks that regardless of your disadvantages you can make choices and decisions that positively impact the community, and in Tubman’s case, the nation,” said Dana Paterra, manager of the park.
Inside the new 16,000-square-foot building will be exhibits placed all over, documenting the history and influence Tubman had on the Eastern Shore and this country.
Paterra added that a Tubman biographer, Kate Clifford Larsen will be conducting a program and book signing at the new park. Also on hand will be the National Park Service’s Poet, Dr. Sonia Sanchez, doing readings of her Harriet Tubman Haikus, as well as conducting writing workshops for families. The grand opening will take place on both March 11 and 12.
These places are a treasure to our national history, as well as our local story, and do the honor of displaying the history of thousands of African Americans from Delmarva.
Below is a list of each attraction from above with the address:
Charles Sumner Hall
206 S. Queen Street, Chestertown, MD 21620
Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center
424 Race Street, Cambridge, MD 21613
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park
4068 Golden Hill Road, Church Creek, MD, 21622
The George Washington University Department of English and Jewish Literature Live proudly present a reading by Elizabeth Poliner on Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 7:00PM in The GW Marvin Center Amphitheater. The author will be reading from her novel As Close to Us as Breathing.
‘In “As Close to Us as Breathing,” her novel about a sprawling but close-knit Jewish family, Elizabeth Poliner sets herself a dual challenge: to tell a story in a first-person voice that omnisciently inhabits the minds of its many participants while also using a recursive narrating style that flows back and forth across a nearly hundred-year span of time.
Poliner is an effective chronicler of that fraught interspace where ancient Jewish custom butts up against the shiny modernity of American life. In the words of Saul Bellow, “The Jews were strange to the world for a great length of time, and now the world is being strange to them in return.” It’s clear that right outside the Jewish enclave of Bagel Beach, the Other begins, and that Other, particularly with the acrid taint of the Holocaust still lingering in the air, is a source both of temptation and of threat.’
(From the New York Times Book Review, March 25, 2016)
This event is FREE and OPEN to the public. First come, first serve seating.
Jewish Lit Live hosts rising and renowned Jewish American writers to speak with the GW and literary community. Guest speakers have included emerging leaders, National Humanities Award Recipients, international bestsellers, and UN-Award Winning Writers, e.g. Michael Chabon, E.L. Doctorow, Daniel Handler, Nicole Krauss, & Erica Jong.
Smilow Furniture was born out of a community not far from NYC, with this in mind, in our next few newsletters, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the more interesting mid century architectural communities around the USA. First up? The one that hits closest to home—Usonia.
For the uninitiated, Usonia was a planned community and is now a national historic district located in Westchester county. Originally, the land was purchased by a cooperative of young couples from NYC who enlisted Frank Lloyd Wright to build his “Broad Acre City” concept. FLW designed three of the homes himself, and approved the plans of the other 44 in the community—including the one the Smilows lived in, which was designed by Aaron Resnick.
FLW believed in the flow of the land, and building within it, not beside it. He deeply believed in the power of nature, which is seen through huge glass windows, structures that use the power of the sun to their advantage, and his specification that beds should be no more than 13 inches tall to ensure that homeowners would be awakened by the sun in the morning and able to see the stars at night.
Named Usonia as an homage to FLW, the community is unique for a suburban neighborhood, as it holds on to the feeling of nature in a way that planned communities usually lose between roads and matching homes, and bulldozed land.
Mel Smilow raised his family in Usonia, and Smilow Furniture was and always will be inspired by nature, community, and historic architecture.
Take a look at the Smilow sisters and other community members chatting about growing up and living in Usonia. Watch >>
It’s come to our attention that a few interior designers that we love have featured Smilow Furniture in recent projects. It’s exciting to see our work in such good company, and to see how Smilow’s enduring classics fit into every environment.