history." So did I when I was their age. So I understand. Since the
beginning of time, or since the first history teachers walked the
earth, students have objected to unearthing the past as part of their
Teachers like me have nine months to change their minds, and I
must tell you, it is a daunting task. It involves a gamut of young
learners -- from those few who have already developed a genuine
love/interest in history to the many who regard it as cruel and
unusual punishment. In between, there is the great majority that can
take it or leave it.
For most, it is a class that must be taken, with a vague
understanding that it does them some good. I've found that kids are
far more receptive to a history lesson that doesn't look like a
history lesson. Like, for example, the Treaty of Versailles (ended
World War I), which, when delivered in all of its textbook glory, can
render sleep to an entire class of fairly bright-eyed students.
Resuscitating the lofty phrases of Woodrow Wilson at Versailles is
guaranteed to increase the drowse factor in any classroom full of
teenagers. (Except, of course, for that tiny minority of students who
dutifully stay "on task," even if I should be reciting the phone
Each year I use my brother, Dave, to teach the lessons of
Versailles. Growing up, he was bigger, stronger and older (two years
older) and always won the battles that regularly broke out between
us. If they involved physical confrontation, I had no chance. I
always lost. There was no contest -- until one glorious,
Dave had borrowed and subsequently lost my baseball glove, which
at that time in my life was my most important possession. I yelled,
he pushed, and from out of nowhere, came a hard right that I
delivered to my brother's nose. This battle was over, and to my
amazement but supreme satisfaction, Dave's nose was bleeding. I won.
The tables were turned.
Overnight I adopted a "Don't mess with me" attitude whenever and
wherever I encountered my brother. There was a new alignment in the
family pecking order. My chief tormenter in life was reduced in rank,