Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Am Our Childrens Lerning?

My usual title for school-related silliness, although in this instance not related to grammar, but to history/social studies.

As you recall, Boy had the task of drawing a British soldier for the class discussion on the American Revolution, which he did with great aplomb. He did keep coming up with comments about the British soldiers that seemed to have come out of a childlike inability to comprehend complex topics. He kept saying that the knapsack worn by the Brits weighed a hundred and fifteen pounds (!), and that their pants fit so tight they had to be put on wet (!!). I just chuckled, but he assured me that this was what their handout said. A handout that had been conveniently left at school. It also contained the instructions for the second part of the assignment, which was to write a page of biographical information about the soldier.

Well, not to worry--I told him to bring home the paper and we'd see what it REALLY said, wondering how he could have got such simple facts so messed up.

Last night he nearly split a seam when he got in the house to show me the paper. On the front were two line drawings--one a colonial militiaman, the other a British soldier. And, sure enough--a list of descriptions with arrows pointing to each thing: "Pack weighs 115 lbs.", "Trousers fit tight and had to be put on wet."

Where in the!? WHAT THE!? What a load of horsecrap, but worse, being passed off to credulous teachers (who should know better) and kids (who can't) without the least bit of question about it. Why, it's written down, so it must be true!

Now the pack, I can somewhat understand why someone might think it would be heavy, given how much modern American soldiers and Marines carry around. But the knapsack of the British army at the time was a small affair, constructed of goatskin or canvas, and intended to carry personal kit--an extra pair of shoes, shoe blacking, an extra set of (canvas) gaiters or spatterdashes, an extra shirt or two, some cloth neck stocks (like a cravat, sorta), some stockings, maybe some extra pants, fuller's clay for whitening his leather stuff, shaving supplies, soap. That's it. It might have weighed twenty or thirty pounds, which is plenty when you're trying to traipse around in a three layers of clothing with a wool topcoat over it all. Not a terrible oversight, but probably still one that could have been questioned since the pack in the line drawing was so tiny, it would have to have been filled with lead to make it weigh that much.

The more egregious oversight was the deal with the pants. Where in the WORLD did they come up with that!? Sure, the pants were tailored to fit the leg (as opposed to the seat, which was an unsightly baggy mess), being that a well-turned leg was seen as essential to showing just how civilized and pretty and stylish a proper army should be. But the whole idea of an entire brigade waking up every morning and putting on wet pants is ludicrous on the face of it. What about if it was cold? And anyway, if they were tight, they'd be EVEN TIGHTER if you put them on wet! If you wanted them to shrink, you'd put them on DRY and THEN wet them down. (Of course, after they dry and you've walked in them, they're gonna not be so tight anymore.) You might as well say other equally stupid stuff, like after they put them on, the laundresses would run a hot flatiron over them to make sure there were no wrinkles, or that each British soldier was required to carry a rooster under each arm.

I suppose what has me so put-out is the idea that this bit of misinformation has been passed around as gospel for who knows how long, and it seems that no one has ever thought, "That's odd--surely that's not true," and done a little research. It speaks more than it probably should about our education system. I really don't expect teachers to know every variation of lockplate markings on British muskets, but it would be nice if they had enough critical thinking skills to question something so daft.

Well, if nothing else, Boy knows better now.

Comments: Post a Comment

al.com - Alabama Weblogs

free hit counter
Visits since 12/20/2001--
so what if they're mostly me!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't
Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com