Saturday, April 4, 2009

Stepping on History

In the classical model, one of the skills emphasized is using primary sources rather than textbooks for information. In history, primary sources have enormous impact. This week, I was in Boston to visit a graduate program... 

Boston. History. Primary sources. I sense a theme.

One day, in between question-and-answer sessions and visiting classes, I took to the streets of Boston to see, touch, and step on some of our nation's history.

Bunker Hill, site of a 1775 Revolutionary War battle, looks very different today. Tall, pristine condominiums sit edge to edge along the roads up the hill. At the top is a 221-foot obelisk with stairs spiraling up to a lookout. 294 steps later, you find (besides a stitch in your side) a 360-degree view of Boston. 

Now imagine standing on that same hill, a little lower, but with fewer obstructions of view, and waiting "to see the whites of their eyes." 

"One if by land, and two if by sea; and I on the opposite shore will be..." April 18, 1775. The Old North Church, the stage for that night's drama, is nestled in the midst of close-set brick buildings on Boston's north end. Inside are the box pews used by prominent members of the colonial community. 

A giant statue of Paul Revere looms in a brick courtyard on one side, but from the other, my first impression was of a house of God where people of Boston still meet to worship. 

What are some of your favorite experiences of walking through (touching? seeing?) history? 

I am reminded often that even when traveling long distances isn't feasible, every town has a history, and most of the time, people who remember it. 

In small steps, I think these are the things we can do to prevent history being relegated to textbooks that are more appropriate for door stops than bedtime stories. What do you think?

...because everyday events can be classical opportunities too... 

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