Today is Patriot’s Day, now celebrated, I assume, on the third Monday of April. When I was growing up in Lexington, I remember it as always being April 19th, regardless of the day. They coincide this year.
My memories of Patriot’s Day are the Boston Marathon and the Red Sox playing in the morning. I also remember a parade and the inscription that ran around our auditorium in Lexington High School: “April 19th, 1775, What a glorious day for America.” At least that’s my memory.
We moved to Lexington when I was a boy of 7, coming from Moses Lake, Washington. Always the motivator, my father warned me that the Lexington kids would know all about the American Revolution. Turns out, to my relief, that they knew no more than I did. Probably less.
In my nine years in the Lexington public school system, I have no memory of ever learning anything about the Revolution or the founding. I’m sure that we talked about it at some point, at least I assume we did, but I have no memory. I went to Muzzy Junior High. (Bless you, Miss Kineen!) I thought Muzzy was a funny name. It was only a few years ago, reading a book about the Battle of Lexington that I read that Isaac Muzzy was one of eight men who died on the Lexington green that April day. My elementary school was Frankin, presumably for Benjamin, but the other elementary schools in town, Harrington, Munroe, and Parker were named for those who died that day.
How could that be? How could you be raised in the cradle of the American revolution and learn virtually nothing about it from what was and is, an excellent school system? How could you learn nothing about tyranny? Nothing about the Constitution?
Part of it was the times, part of it the politics of the place, part of it surely, the belief among too many teachers of high school, that history is really nothing more than the recitation of facts and that the poetry of revolution and creating of a republic were too much for young minds. Who knows? And perhaps I had a glorious high school history course that I have simply forgotten.
When we moved to the Washington DC area a few months ago, I did not tell my children how all of their neighbors would know more about government and the founding and the Constitution. Instead, I try to give them a feel for how rare and glorious is the country we live in.
Ironically, perhaps, the three schools nearby are Walter Johnson High, Churchill High, and Herbert Hoover Middle School. No founders. No war American war heroes. A pitcher, a Brit and a President who is not next in line to get a monument on the Mall downtown.
That motivating father loves European history. So only recently I have been trying to make up for lost time and reading about the founding and the Civil War. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
I suspect my memory of my auditorium quote is wrong. School is closed today, so I can’t verify it, by my guess is that the actual quote is “What a glorious morning for America” rather than day. It’s a quote from Samuel Adams who speaking to John Hancock said, “What a glorious morning this is!”
He was right. And now we think of Sam Adams as a beer. We have lots of work to do.
Here is the Wikipedia page on the battles of Lexington and Concord.