I used to die of boredom in history. I was resurrected during recess, when I ran off to figure out what homework was due for my next class.
I remember my poor history teacher. She loved the Renaissance, but mostly she loved French words. I think I heard the word “renaissance” more times in my world history class than I did “atom” in chemistry. But I digress.
Is it just me, or do you think more students would benefit by having teachers focus more on the magic, the sheer eery, transcendant magic of every discipline, rather than simply the mundane facts? Or at least spark the class with magic before introducing said framework?
For instance, must I first learn (and forget) the cut and dry history of the Reformation (boring!) with everyone’s names and all the dates–and only decades later discover that the nursery rhyme about Little Jack Horner is filled to the brim with mad brilliant hot intrigue and scandal connected to the changing religious/political power games of the period?
Have I mentioned this before? It’s my latest kick. One of many, I’ll own.
Remember the rhyme?
Little Jack Horner sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie,
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said, “What a good boy am I!”
Turns out this dumb little ditty is not so dumb at all (she said, ducking tomatoes from the peanut gallery). Nay, friends and cohorts! For it is rather salacious…
Turns out, “little Jack Horner” was the steward to the Bishop of Glastonbury, which was the wealthiest Abbey in England. They had property coming out the wazoo, to use the historical terminology I favor. And when King Henry VIII decided to dissolve all of the monasteries in the land in order to seize their sizable wealth for himself, the Bishop balked. He decided to bribe the King.
He sent his steward, Jack Horner, to the King with the deeds of twelve estates, hoping the King would be satiated and not go after everything else too. The bribe, the deeds, were hidden to thwart thievery by brigands along the way. Hidden, as apparently was the custom, in a pie. (Does the plot begin to thin for you?)
Our friend in the corner, little Jack Horner, up and stole one of the deeds himself. He got a plum property–in other words, the cream of the crop.
The Bishop’s plan was not received well by the King, who not only took all of his lands, but destroyed his Abbey, and had the Bishop put to trial for treason. Rumor has it, our friend in the corner, little Jack Horner, was in the jury. Needless to say, the punishment for treason was unpleasant and did not end with death. Why stop there, after all, when a man’s dead body can be mutilated and put on display to deter others from… well, whatever you want to deter them from doing.
The estate remains in the Horner family to this very day. They refuse to discuss the ditty.
Now THAT, my friends, is history. Right???
Isn’t it a thousand times more compelling to hear this and then, while the images still thrill the imagination, ask questions about the shifting constellation of religious and political powers in England?
Am I being mental?
Poor History, beggar to none, but painfully betrayed and shrouded by textbooks that forget that everything we humans do has magic and spice to it. It would be so easy to fascinate future historians; all we’d have to do is release History from those stale garments that are high school textbooks.
History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again.
~ Kurt Vonnegut