history · slice of life

Visiting Wheatland

Inauguration Day is two days away. Like many Americans, I’m furious that our country is divided. While it’s my sincere hope better days are ahead for our country, I think it’s important to have conversations with kids about how we got here since this isn’t the first time our country has been at a crossroads.

The last time our country was this at odds with itself was the in 1860. President James Buchanan failed to hold the Union together and didn’t stop the secession of the South in early 1861. Many historians contend was one of the greatest mistakes in presidential history.

President Buchanan’s home, Wheatland, is located a few miles away from our house. Even though it’s closed to the public now, due to COVID-19, the grounds are open and a virtual tour is available.

This morning, I bundled the kids up and took them to visit Wheatland (and the Tanger Arboretum, which has over 200 varities of trees). While Ari viewed our field trip as “morning exercise,” Isabelle and I had the chance to talk about Buchanan’s legacy as we walked around Wheatland.

You might be wondering why I chose a freezing winter day to talk about Buchanan’s failures? Because Isabelle saw part of the Insurrection at the Capitol unfold at the tail end of a movement break. (Backstory: She watches kids’ HIIT vidoes on YouTube for daily movement breaks. She has the habit of exiting out of YouTube at the end of a movement break. Of course, the news was on when she exited out on January 6th so she saw the Capitol Steps flooded with people.) She knows what happened after she returned to class and has a developing understanding about why people stormed the Capitol.

I minored in history as an undergraduate. My understanding of American History was shaped by three professors: Tyler Anbinder, Edward Berkowitz, and Linda Grant DePauw. And while my daughter is only in fourth grade, I felt that today — as we stand on the cusp of what I hope are better days for our country — we should talk about what happened in the past. As the saying goes, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” It’s time for all of us to make sure our children — whether they’re are own or the kids we teach — have an understanding of America’s past so we don’t repeat the mistakes of those who came before us.

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12 thoughts on “Visiting Wheatland

  1. It’s time for all of us to make sure our children — whether they’re are own or the kids we teach — have an understanding of America’s past so we don’t repeat the mistakes of those who came before us.

    Yes! 🙌 I love reading about these small moments- everyone doing their part. Hopefully, it will lead to a better tomorrow.

  2. My husband reminds me all the time that we must always remember and remind each other of history. I think it’s important for not only the young but the teens and young adults, too. We’ve got to remind each other! Admire you connecting the present to the past for your own children and also for us, here!

  3. So many countries around the world are torn with differences. I wholly agree that it’s important we learn from history and educate our children too. They need to know and learn. This was such a wonderful way to explain the present situation through the past.

  4. I have many thoughts both about your post and recent events, which I have obsessed about incessantly. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been consuming news since I was in second grade, I do believe in teaching young kids about current events. The Vietnam war was my baptism into news. JFK died when I was five, and I watched his funeral. I also love history and the believe locating literature in the context of historical moments is important, at least in high school. I keep thinking about division in this country. What worries me most in this moment is the complete denial of basic facts by so many. I don’t know how we fix that problem, especially w/ many teachers embracing QAnon. That’s what keeps me awake at night.

    1. I don’t claim to understand the world of alternate facts and conspiracy theories. Yet, so many people are buying into those things. We have to ask why so we can determine how to help future generations become media literate and critically literate.

  5. Yes, we all need to pay attention to the past and the present. It’s the only hope for the future. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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