Parents are so busy struggling to survive the mountain of taxes , mortgages, tuition all sorts of bills that must be paid that the effort to share a meal with your kids is the last thing on your list. Maybe the only thing good about the holidays is that it forces us to sit down with people we should know well and discuss something. How about history? Yes use all those smart phones to actually make you knowledgeable about something that interests you.
I visited my daughter on her University campus and saw all these seemingly bright fit beautiful and handsome kids and was shocked about how much historical general knowledge they didn’t know. One young woman didn’t know that the original 13 Colonies were on the east coast of America. It is not their fault. Our teachers often have just an education degree which means nothing. They should have a degree in some topic so they can actually share some expertise to students.
At that time colonists were returning to their European roots eager to learn from what was then the most important city in the world ,Paris. France was the model of democracy and French troops were vital to America’s victory in the War of Independence. Paris led the world in science , medicine and the arts. Just 50 years after our independence a generation of Anerican kids returned to France to learn science , medicine and art. We had nothing in America.
There they looked at Notre Dame, a building that was built before Columbus ever sailed. Paris had grand boulevards, beautiful parks and great universities, all the things young America didn’t have. There wasn’t even an Art Museum in the United States so in 1830 an artist named Samuel Morse went there to study painting and became a masterful painter. While there he dreamed up and created the Morse Code Telegraph that in it’s day was as important as the internet is important to us today.
Louie Daguerre is considered the father of photography who is known to have taken the first photo on a Paris street scene. In 1836 Morse brought photography to America. In 1871 Mary Putman became the first American woman to graduate from medical school in Paris. 133 years ago the young American John Singer Seargent painted famous paintains of French buildings.
The Sorbonne the Paris University changed the lives of many other Americans. Charles Sumner was there in 1838. He was a young Boston lawyer who went to France and studied alongside black students from Colonial Africa. His friendship with his fellow students made him fight for the rights of black people to work and study along with whites. He came back to America convinced that slavery was evil and fought for the rest of his life to abolish slavery in America.
These people you probably never heard of and didn’t study about ever in your lives. They all left America to study in France and returned back to America and somehow made our country better. What are our kids learning here now? How to beat the latest video game? How to load up their play list on their phone? We can’t even afford to send our kids to Paris today even if we hoped they would learn something there to bring back to America.