Thursday, July 3, 2008

a frightening fourth of july tale

ah yes, it's that time again. what time is it, miss dewey decimal? oh, it's time to shudder at the lack of education which my kids are receiving! yay!

before we begin i have decided that whenever a holiday is coming up we will spend the ENTIRE MONTH of that holiday learning what the holiday means. do you know my kids STILL don't know what the mayflower is? grrrrr.

yesterday we made a fourth of july craft. it involved splattering paint on paper so that it looked like fireworks. it was very fun. and before the craft began my assistant made the mistake of asking a 5th grade girl what the meaning of fourth of july is. she looked at us, stunned, as if we asked her to explain the theory of relativity. then, a 7th grade girl came in, so we asked her the same question. and she said, "fourth of july is a time to spend time with your family because they love you?"

so then i gave the girls two books on the fourth of july. these two books were on a 2nd grade reading level. i told them to read the books and then tell me what the fourth of july is about. after about two minutes they both reported that they could now tell me what the fourth of july means.
me: oh yeah? why do we celebrate the fourth of july
5th grader: this guy he was in charge and he told these people something and then the declaration of independence.
me: that makes absolutely no sense. if i were a kid and i came up to you and said, "hey what is the fourth of july? what would you say?"
5th grader: [silence]
7th grader: it's like a time that you spend with your family and go on picnics?
me: that is not what it says in those books. read those books. work together. discuss. then i want you to make a presentation to me about why we celebrate the fourth of july.

so they read and i saw them taking notes and i thought that they were finally getting it. then the 7th grader asked me if she can copy something from the book.

me: i can read the book. if i wanted to read the book, i'd read the book myself. i want you to tell me what the fourth of july means. in your words. it doesn't have to be formal. it doesn't have to be a long report. it could be one sentence explaining why we celebrate this holiday.

she groans and then goes back to writing. then, about ten minutes later they tell me that they are done. so i tell them they should practice what they're going to say and that in a little while we will start the craft and they will tell me about the fourth of july.

me: ok, before we do our craft these two lovely girls are going to tell us about the fourth of july. which one of you wants to go first.
7th grader: the fourth of july is a holiday we celebrate. we celebrate it with family and we have picnics with our family and watch fireworks.
me: that's what you said before. that wasn't in the book. that is not WHY we celebrate fourth of july.
5th grader: fourth of july was not always a holiday. it became a federal holiday in 1870.
me: [pause for more information]
me: is that it? that's true but that doesn't tell us WHY we celebrate the holiday or what it MEANS. why do we celebrate the fourth of july?!
5th grader and 7th grader: [silence]
me: i am really disappointed in you guys. i gave you those books and you obviously didn't read any of it. you can't tell me one thing about the fourth of july?
5th grader and 7th grader: [silence]
me: okay ... can anyone tell me about the fourth of july
4th grader: it's when we celebrate the statue of liberty
me: no ... but that is closer. the statue of liberty is a symbol of america. but why do we celebrate the fourth of july?
3rd grader: is that when the statue of liberty was made?
me: fourth of july really has nothing to do with the statue of liberty.

please note that none of the answers they gave mentioned the words: freedom, free country, independence, etc.

so i go into the story of the fourth of july, and along the way i ask them questions, hoping that at any moment they would be able to jump in with something, anything, they learned in school.

but sadly, they knew nothing. when i asked who ruled the colonies before we became a free country they didn't know. when i told them it was the british and then asked where the british were from, they didn't know. when i asked them what country the colonists came from one young man answered, "the south?" i then had to explain that "the south" is not a country. when i asked what the declaration of independence was the 7th grade girl said she thought it was the speech that lincoln gave. when i asked if anyone had ever heard the phrase "no taxation without representation" i was met by shrugs. and so on and so on. i tell you ... private school ... my unborn children will be going to private school.

but today is a new day! i have created some extremely basic fourth of july trivia questions and we will play trivia and they will learn a modicum of knowledge about american history. here is what i came up with. we'll see how they do.

1. In what year did the Colonists declare their independence from the British?
a. 1776
b. 1886
c. 1996
d. 2006

2. Before America became a free country, who ruled us?

3. What country are British people from (I will not accept Britain as an answer)?

4. The colonists were to become the first Americans. What country did they come from?

5. How many colonies were there?

6. Name one of the 13 colonies.

7. Name a state that was NOT one of the 13 colonies.

8. What was the main thing the colonists did not like about being ruled by the British?
hint: No [blank] without Representation

9. Who was the ruler of England during this time?

10. What was the document called that declared that the colonists would no longer be under the rule of the British?

11. What war was started by the Declaration of Independence?

12. What is it called when a group of people fight against the power that rules them?

13. What was the name of the group that wrote the Declaration of Independence?
a. The Congress of Patriots
b. The Senate
c. The Continental Congress
d. The House of Representatives

14. During the time of the Revolutionary War there were a group of colonists who wanted to remain under the rule of the British (they did NOT want to revolt and form their own country). What were they called?
a. Patriots
b. Loyalists
c. Whigs
d. Tories

15. What was the name for the colonists who wanted toform their own free independent country?
a. Patriots
b. Loyalists
c. Whigs
d. Torries
e. Americans

16. Which of the following countries assisted the colonists in winning the Revolutionary War?
a. Spain
b. Mexico
c. France
d. England

17.Who won the Revolutionary War?

18. Who designed the American Flag?

19. Which of these people were members of the Continental Congress AND signed the Declaration of Independence AND became a US President?
a. Thomas Jefferson
b. Abraham Lincoln
c. Samuel Adams

20. Which of these members of the Continental Congress, who signed the Declaration of Independence, later became a US President?
a. John Adams
b. Benjamin Franklin
c. John Hancock

21. Who was the President of the Continental Congress, but what never the president of the United States?
a. George Washington
b. Samuel Adams
c. John Hancock
d. Paul Revere

22. After The United States of America gained its independence, we received The Statue of Liberty as a gift from what country?
a. England
b. Spain
c. Mexico
d. France

23. Before the Declaration of Independence was signed there were many events in which the colonists rebelled against British rule. Which of the following events is an example of the American colonists rebelling against the British?
a. The Salem Witch Trials
b. Bastille Day
c. The Boston Tea Party
d. Battle of Bunker Hill

24. Which countries celebrate the Fourth of July?


Anonymous said...

Um, you might want to fix the typo in Question #3 before you administer the test?

Miss Dewey Decimal said...

as a librarian, i do not actually administer tests. these were questions i asked the kids in a game show style trivia challenge. but thanks for correcting my grammar.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that after such a shocking story, about how the educational system has failed these kids, someone leaves a comment about your grammar.

What are these kids learning in school if they can't answer basic questions about American history??

Maureen said...

I can't think of a single comment I could make that wouldn't sound incredibly lame (see, even this sound incredibly lame). Anyway, keep up the good work-guess that about says it.