Friday, July 17, 2015

One Night Stands with American History by Richard Shenkman and Kurt Reiger

My favorite part about history, and why I was drawn to the social studies, were the stories. History is incredibly valuable: people can learn from the mistakes of the past, as well as look to the best in order to form their own decisions. I'm sure there are a lot of other valuable information about social studies as well, like politics and military strategies, but man, oh man, I loved the stories.

What is also very interesting about history and a bit sad as well, is that history is mostly written by the victors. We see that all the time when we read history textbooks. It doesn't take much to actually alter history. Just a few words on a page and distribute it to youngsters.

I got this book while I was going through a retiring teacher's classroom. He filled his room up with books and as he retired, gave them all away. I got a few other books that I'm excited to read but I chose One Night Stands because I thought it would be a good pairing with my new position as a social studies teacher next year. Not sure if I'll ever reference the title of the book, though...

One Night Stands shares a plethora of stories about famous politicians that can either be confirmed or denied. The author guides you through U.S history, starting from the American Revolution all the way up to the 2000s. The author groups stories by eras with bulleted facts and figures at the beginning of each chapter. Most stories are about presidents, with a sprinkling of cabin members, first ladies and congress.

Teddy Roosevelt is quite an exciting person who met his challenges with gusto throughout his life. However, he is a product of his time and backed up a "scientific" book about the inferiority of black people. Yikes. Not cool, Teddy... not cool.

George Washington is a folk hero and a legend in American history, including how lucky he was to not have been shot. John Adams, the poor sod, who is so brilliant but at the end of the day, everyone hated him. I also loved how he was vehemently against the Bald Eagle and wanted a good solid bird to be the nation's mascot... the turkey.

Side note, why is Andrew Jackson still on American money? He's such a jerk and wasn't a good president. Even though I mentioned that Teddy Roosevelt was a product of his time, Andrew Jackson was a jerk. He hated Native Americans and there was this one story about how he was stopped somewhere where the agents wanted to check his papers for transporting slaves. Not one to be told what to do, or have his slaves being taken from him, he uncuff his slaves, gave them weapons and walked through the town. When they made it through, he took the weapons away, put them back in chains, and then sold them. Just... wow.

I thought the most interesting thing was the fact that Hoover's veep was part Native American. Charles Curtis's mother was Native American (Kaw, I think) and his father was white. There are a few sad stories about his childhood and how when his maternal grandparents were forced to moved reservations, they told him to stay with his paternal grandparents to in order to have the opportunities. Apparently he rode horses as well.

Even though I enjoy studying WWII history, Ike Eisenhower was... an interesting individual. Apparently, he didn't like intellectuals. There was also a tidbit about a satirical journalist rewriting Lincoln's emancipation proclamation in Ike's language. He does not sound very good.

The first presidential library I ever visited was the LBJ museum in Austin, Texas. Johnson was a great personality and practiced some of the old politics of intimidation and "wearing you down." There was also a story about how he whipped it out for journalists in China!

The book only goes up to the George W. Bush, and after reading the Bushisms, I'm depressed he was ever elected. 

I would love this book to be updated with stories of Obama.... But who knows if they'll do that. Oh, I especially loved the Clinton stories... Who knew he would become even more popular after his scandals?

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