Did you watch the first installment of the History Channel series, “America: the Story of Us” last Sunday?
Given the theme of my blog, you can assume correctly that I’d been anticipating this show since they started promoting it a couple of months ago and in almost every way, I was not disappointed. The show has a lofty goal … to give us a broad understanding of the entire history of the United States. The producers even go so far as to tell us that they will be providing a copy of the DVD to every school in the nation. That sounds like a good thing and really, it is a good thing. Any form of entertainment that enhances the teaching of American history in our schools these days is welcome.
But, I have to qualify my enthusiasm for the show slightly.
I grew up in South Carolina and I was exposed to a heavy dose of South Carolina history in school. I know for instance, that several major battles of the Revolutionary War took place in South Carolina. At least two of these engagements were absolutely pivotal in the success of Patriot cause, but when an overview of the era is put together either on paper or on the screen, the importance … many times even the mere fact, of these crucial events is glossed over or completely omitted.
The fact is, that without the Patriot victories at Kings Mountain and then at Cowpens, Lord Cornwallis never faces a siege at Yorktown and Washington never has the opportunity to force his surrender there. I realize that going into full detail about these victories would be more than time would allow, but there should at least have been some brief mention, given the momentous importance and the fact that Washington was not directly involved.
We all realize and appreciate that George Washington is the “Father of Our Country”. We have been indoctrinated with this from an early age and I have no problem giving Washington his due. I would in no way minimize his enormous contribution as an American leader in war and peace. Without Washington commanding our military, our country does not achieve its independence from England … at least not in the 1780s … and without him as our first President, our nation is probably just another failed experiment in democracy.
But the fact is, George Washington did NOT win the Revolution entirely on his own. Not by long shot! And this is the impression that school kids are going to get when they view the DVD of the initial episode of “America: The Story of Us” with their teachers. Unless their teachers correct the perception, they are going to think that after six years of fighting, Washington finally ran Cornwallis down by himself and bottled him up in Yorktown with little or no help.
Mel Gibson at least tried to get it right when he directed and starred in that muddled fictional mess called “The Patriot”. Heck, at least Mel acknowledged that a lot of important events took place in the South during the Revolution, even if he didn’t bother to portray them with any particular degree of accuracy. Mel gets props for effort at any rate.
These complains aside, kudos to the producers of “America: The Story of Us.” The first installment was tremendously entertaining. The production values were wonderful and it was obvious that the producers went all out to give us a first-rate show. I enjoyed it and I will certainly watch the rest of the series, but I will remain slightly skeptical that the full story of us is being portrayed and I will hope that kids watch the show and become inspired to investigate their country’s history in greater detail.
I know … good luck with that … right??