I recently asked my 13 year old son if he wanted to go to the movies to see “Invictus”. He looked puzzled, then asked, “What is invictus?”. I explained to him that invictus is to be unconquerable or undefeated. He then asked what is the movie “Invictus” about? I felt a sense of pride fill my spirit when I began to explain to him that the movie “Invictus” was about the leadership of Nelson Mandela.
The pride that I was feeling was quickly deflated when he asked, “Who is Nelson Mandela?”. It felt as though someone had stopped the clocks of time. I became upset and accusing all at once. My mind became consumed with one immediate thought, “What history is being taught to our children in the school system when my son does not know of the existence of Nelson Mandela?”.
As I began to explain the history of Nelson Mandela’s journey from activist to prison to President, I realized that history does not start in the school, it starts in the home. The school system had not failed my child for not teaching him the history of Nelson Mandela, I had failed my child. Very similar to most parents, I have always provided a good life for my child, but that life did not include the depth of history that I had obviously deemed important.
As working and career striving parents we ourselves have often become so consumed with the rituals of making a living for our families, that we tend to pass on to others the responsibilities of teaching our children about those important moments that have structured the opportunities of our lives.
While the school system does provide an array of lessons that will encourage the education of our children. It also encompasses its own limitations of time and education professionals. If we as parents believe that the history of our ancestors or countries are important enough for our children to learn, we must assume the responsibility of teaching these lessons to our children ourselves.
Though we may be concerned that some of the history of our ancestors and countries are not all moments of pride, but moments of struggle and shame. We must also remember that the lives that we live today are enriched by the struggles and shame of those very moments. While teaching our children about those historical people, places or events we should also include examples of how history has shaped the moments of our present lives.
I believe that in teaching these historical lessons to our children, we will not only enrich their lives, but our lives and the lives of their children. In these lessons they will experience new understanding and appreciation of how the actions and sacrifices of others have contributed to the blessings of their own lives. What a great gift to extend to our children. There exist no video game or television show that will demonstrate the same care as you and I would administer when teaching our children the lessons of the past. How do you feel about teaching our children about history? I’d like to know.