“So what do you teach in 8th grade? Do you teach the revolutions?”
“Yeah, we do the French and Industrial Revolutions.”
“Not the American?”
“Well, we do an investigation on the Boston Massacre.”
“But not on the Revolution?”
“No. Why would we? We are a European school. America is not in Europe.”
The teacher meant no harm. They were just stating their read on curriculum. But part of me thought…. do they think that I am so Amero-centric that I would teach the American Revolution simply because I am American?
The beauty (and the curse) of teaching history is that there is so much history to teach…and each year the history of the world gets longer. History teachers are always discussing what are relevant topics for our kids. Should we stay in the Western Hemisphere? Should include Asia because so many of our clientele are from this region? What do our students need for the Diploma? What history should we just ignore?
We teach the American Revolution because it is the model, the ground breaker for Revolutions to come. It is not that the Americans got it goin’ on. It’s that the ideals that were spawned during this moment, the Enlightenment, were used in future Revolutions.
The American Revolution was the first time a group of people rose up against a powerful European nation and said, “No thanks, we appreciate all your previous support and all, but we think we can do a better job of running this place.” This group of people created a government system that is still with us today. Those in Latin America would begin their revolutions forty years later. They too would look to throw off their European Colonial ties.
The French Intelligencia and the French Court, all loved the ideals of the American Revolution. And they didn’t just support the Revolution because the Americans were attempting to do what the French hadn’t done successfully in a while…kick some British butt. The French were also excited about the Enlightenment. They looked to the Americans and supported their fight because they thought it was a grand experiment. Later, they too would try this experiment, but it would backfire on them. Some of the court that invited Benjamin Franklin into their folds would later be executed as enemies of the French Revolution.
Then there is the whole reason for the initial violence of French Revolution. The people of France were starving. They had no voice in government; they had no advocates to ensure their well being. And why were they starving? Because their government was bankrupt, their economy was in a downward spiral. And why was the country bankrupt? France went bankrupt while paying for the American Revolution.
So you see the American Revolution wasn’t only about America. It had everything to do with Europe.
And if you don’t believe me, check out this wonderful article from Vanity Fair. A. A. Gill’s (British) defense of America, from his book “To America with Love”.