What My Grandson Learned About Lying

This past summer my thirteen-year-old grandson, Evan, brought a stack of books to the family’s summer lake place, outside of Nisswa, Minnesota.  He had applied to several Massachusetts schools and was thrilled to be admitted to his first choice.  The books were to be read before school started, so they came with him.  Typically, if a family member has a book or two with him/her, I’ve got to see what it’s all about.  This was a fascinating stack of books.  And to think, he was just going on fourteen!  WOW!  I was ready to be a kid again.Before I tell you about his favorite book, I should tell you what he is not: he is not a nerdy kid.  He’s up to his ears in sports: golf, swimming, skate-boarding, ski-boarding and biking.  He plays piano and guitar in the school jazz-band, and he’s got a lot of friends of both sexes.  Favorite subjects?  Science and Spanish (I think that’s a weird combination, but it’s okay by me.  Kids that like language often like the humanities or the social sciences, and kids that like science often aren’t into reading.  I guess he was influenced by both parents.  His dad is a scientist and his mom was a sociology undergrad.)  First, though, I need to set the stage right.  His parents are not helicopter-parents.Last weekend, I decided to find out his favorite book from summer reading.  His kneejerk response?  Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen.It was the one I fingered the most.  It didn’t lend itself to skimming.  As a college history major, I didn’t want to shortchange the book, so I took the time to read it for myself.  That made me all the more curious to find out what he gained from the book and how it was used in school.Evan told me it was used “sort of like a class textbook in American history.”  It was “really interesting.  It pointed out the myths of American history and then explained what really happened.  It also has a lot of ‘cool facts.’  It doesn’t ‘bash’ American history.”  “Cool facts?”  I’ve never thought about facts being “cool,” or even necessarily fascinating.  But I do teach fact-based decision-making, so I readily understood what he was saying.I was just as interested in the critical thinking skills that he gained.  Evan said he learned “how to tell the difference between myth and facts, and got a lot of ‘tools’ that I can use in any situation.  I also learned how some historical incidents can become myths.”I was left with the understanding that my grandson understood that America acts in its own interests, like any other country.  As a grandparent I believe that the purpose of education is to enable our young people to make an informed decision.  This is the kind of book that goes a long way toward achieving that objective.  I wish that more Americans had that kind of civics education. Just as important, Evan is learning to think for himself.  The most important key to personal and professional success is knowing how to think.  Evan’s got a leg up on that subject.
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