Check your facts at the door
PORTLAND, ORE. — TO: All Parents
FR: Your Principal
There appears to be growing concern among the parent community regarding our upcoming American history pageant, and I felt it was important to send you this letter of clarification to avoid potential misunderstandings.
As you know, the curriculum here at Freehappy Elementary School empowers all students to maximize creativity and spontaneity as they develop learning skills in a cooperative, caring environment. Each skit in the history pageant was written and produced entirely by our students, and their hard work in the daily rehearsals has been truly inspiring.
Unfortunately, recent developments in Hollywood involving the CBS miniseries about the Reagans have resonated within households locally and I have received several inquiries about the accuracy of various events being portrayed in our pageant. I was also saddened to learn that numerous pages of the script have been copied and circulated covertly, further eroding the atmosphere of trust that is one of our philosophical cornerstones.
Before this situation becomes more uncomfortable, let me address three specific scenes that appear to be causing most of the disruptive feelings:
1. In the Civil War skit, Abraham and Mary Lincoln are showed firing muskets and lobbing hand grenades out their bedroom window to repel a Confederate attack on the White House. While it is true that no record of such an attack has been found, nor were modern hand grenades available to the Union Army at that time, the children were striving for a powerful narrative image that would underscore Mr. Lincoln's courage in the face of a national crisis.
2. The last flight of Amelia Earhart ends with the aviatrix being abducted from the cockpit of her plane by an alien spacecraft. Initially, I was skeptical. After discussing it with the students, however, I was persuaded that while it involves speculation, the overall dramatic effect should be seen as a means of provoking further discussion about the risks of technological advancement.
3. The skit on Princess Diana includes references to the CIA, nuclear power, and the death of Karen Silkwood. This sequence could have gone through one more draft to make the plot elements more audience-accessible, but it accurately portrays our cultural fascination with conspiracy theories and their effect on public perceptions of the news.
I believe enthusiasm is the catalyst for academic achievement, and overemphasis on rote memorization of dates, places, and names can stifle the spirit of intellectual inquiry. By allowing our students to explore creative impulses in a historical context, they challenge their own limitations and set personal standards of excellence.
So as you view our delightful pageant, I urge you to recall the words of George Santayana: "Those who do not remember the past should be given some slack when trying to rewrite it." Maybe that's not an exact quote. But if George were still around, I think he'd be OK with it.