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« I'm a brie-eating, white wine-drinking, latte-sipping liberal and I vote | Main | The miracle in Iraq »


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And the punchline is, of course, that France won the Hundred Years War.

Try telling that to Ms. SmartyPants and watch her head explode.

Mike Schilling

And she must have missed the Simpsons episode with Lisa as Joan of Arc.

Let us kill the English, their concept of individual rights might undermine the power of our beloved tyrants!


Sorry to go all fanboy, but Buffy had a great Henry V reference in one of their season finales. She's just given a not-at-all inspiring speech to the gang before their big fight, leading to this spat of dialogue as they're walking out the door:

Xander: Not exactly a St. Crispin's day speech.

Giles (wistfully): We few, we happy few.

Spike: We band of buggered.

Ken Houghton

You don't have TiVo or a DVR, and your fifthsixth-grader can't deal with modernantiquated (VCR) technology.

Who cares if he knows something about history? That's won't get him on FOX (indeed, it appears to be a contraindicator).

Ken Houghton

Dang. Preview mode showed the strikeouts.


I guess I wasn't being fair, snarking on Ms. Smartypants like that -- I know someone whose teenage kid thought that Joan of Arc was a fictional character much like Robin Hood or Sir Lancelot. So, stupid Leno jokes aside, Ms. S. isn't the only one who's not all that up-to-date on the 15th century.


"Jokes have consequences."

As any member of any ethnic group in this country could tell you.

Ken Muldrew

When American students study American history, how do the French come out in the war for American Independence?


Back in my day, when (as Wolcott says) pteradactyls ruled the skies, we got Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade, Julius Caesar in tenth, Hamlet in eleventh, and Macbeth in twelfth. It wasn't until college that I was introduced to the Henrys, Lear, and the radiant Hermia.

And world history wasn't required, just optional. I took it, but I'm weird like that...


Er, how do you even begin to understand any aspect of early modern Europe without knowing the Hundred Years War? After all, Charles VII (the Victorious) and Louis the XI (the Universal Spider), the eventual French victors, were the initiators of the absolutist monarchy - the monarchs whom all other princes imitated and built upon for the next 300+ years. Strangely, last Saturday, I checked out of the library Philippe de Commines' Memoires, Commines being Louis XI's advisor, spymaster and member of his royal council for many years.


We covered As You Like It, Romeo & Juliet, & Macbeth when I was in High School. We may have covered Hamlet as well. Didn't read any of the Henrys until college.

We didn't cover the Hundred Years War in the fifth grade, or in any grade when I was in school.


To Mike Schilling above, I loved that Simpsons episode, esp. where Marge, mishearing, exclaims, "What did you say about Joan Van Ark?" It's funnier to hear than read, lol..

Other than that I am so over even pretending to understand the contempt for France that know-nothings are still tossing about. DONE.

Uh, because they were RIGHT? More likely, it's deep-seated insecurity that goes further back than Iraq, and now that all the boobs have microphones (or blogs) they get to echo each other.

Interesting: Jacqueline Kennedy was heavily marketed to the press by Papa Joe for her exotic Frenchness when JFK was campaigning, and it resonated positively with the public. Julia Child was bringing French cooking to America about the same time. Jackie's Frenchness was celebrated, memorably in the rapturous reception the Kennedys were given during the state visit to France. The press there were proud and rapturous over Jackie's ancestry.

In short, there was indeed a time where to be French was admired in the US.

Except: Jackie was only 1/8th French, and her main ethnicity both on the Lee and Bouvier sides were in fact Irish. Jackie was way more Irish than French, but it was very canny of Joe kennedy to market her this way.
My friend Gina wrote about this in a book, "Daughters of Maeve: 50 Irish Women Who Changed the World". It was very perceptive, a unique angle on theinteresting relationship between jackie and Joe kennedy in their bid for the big prize..

Ken Muldrew

A fellow with an outrageous French name explains why Shakespeare has been dropped from the canon here.


To be fair, Spain was a good guess. At least she's apparently heard of the Armada, and she was only off by about a hundred years.

I got Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Lear (I think), Hamlet, and, kind of an interesting choice, Taming of the Shrew in HS. Merchant of Venice in Middle School. Pretty good show for late 1980s California public schools now that I think about it, but I didn't study any of the history plays until college.


I hope nobody thinks I was putting down the valedictorian. She was a very bright kid and, more importantly, seemed like a very nice one too. I was just surprised that the top student in her class didn't seem to have anything in her store of information that would have given her a clue to the right answer there---not Joan of Arc, not Henry V, not a Simpsons episode, not any actual history.

I don't know what her high school was like. But I'd say that in most high schools someone doesn't get to be the valedictorian simply by acing all the required courses. They have to be smarter and have worked harder than all the other A students. In my high school, that would have meant taking honors classes and electives and doing a lot of outside reading and I don't think I'm being unfair to think that somewhere along the line there she should have come across at least a summary of Shakespeare's life and works that would have included the fact that Henry V takes place during the Hundred Years War. The Band of Brothers speech is, after all, almost as famous as To be or not to be, Romeo, Romeo, The quality of Mercy, and Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. But not every---maybe not many---high schools offer honors courses or electives. The flaw is not hers, but in her school or her state's education system or in the entire country's.

But what really bugged me wasn't that she hadn't brushed up on her Shakespeare. It was the point that Deschanel addresses in his/her comment. The girl had absorbed a modicum of contempt for France that isn't something past generations of high school students or Americans in general shared.

And what saddens me is the point I made at the end of the post. That the war in Iraq has been the dominant news event of the lives of everyone under the age of 18.


What are fifth graders studying in their history or Social Studies classes in your state?

Probably not that relevant (other country, other century), but: No history in 5th grade, 6th grade Stone Age to Egypt, 7th grade Greeks and Romans, 8th grade Middle Ages and Renaissance, 9th grade Enlightenment and Imperialism, 10th grade 20th century.

So, no Joan d'Arc until 8th grade. And no Shakespeare until 12th, and then only if you took advanced English. Basic English read War of the Worlds, some modern plays, 1984, and a lot of newspapers and essays.

I had heard about Joan d'Arc when I was 9, but I'd have had a hard time putting her in historical context.


Read Thomas B. Costain's four volume series "The Last Plantagenets" in fifth grade, but didn't study them in social studies class. We had world geography instead. That was the same year I read "Harry of Monmouth". This was probably all because my brother, much older than me, was a history major and sent me reading lists periodically.

Josh T

I bet French Students know a lot about the American Revolution since A they helped us win it and 2 as a direct consequence of the the financial stress on the French Treasury the King raised taxes which led to the French Revolution.

Of course I bet the French don't know much about the American Civil War, except that they tried to take advantage of it by conquering Mexico.


Wow, a teenager's snark misplaced. You're right, it's the reflexive diss of the French that's most troubling.

When I was 12, on a family trip we visited Britain and I picked up a copy of a board game called Kingmaker, about the War of the Roses. I decided not to play it until school was teaching that period of history, because I thought it'd be cooler to play then. I was informed by my parents that school would probably never cover it, and they were right.

Even very bright kids can't always make up for the gaps in their education on their own, and that may well have been the case for these students. I know I had a few great history teachers, but I never received a good comprehensive, linear history curriculum across grade levels. I've tried to make up for that on my own since.

Jim Miles

"But a couple of other things depressed me just as much as the thought that all she'd learned about European history she'd learned from a Jay Leno monologue."


Your point about having picked up History through other sources (such as Shakespeare) is a good one, but in my experience students don't get a grasp of the continuity and simultaneity of History at least until they hit college and have to do some research of their own, instead of just learning facts they are given. It's only then that it all joins up.


I went through public school in southern California (graduated 1997), and we did California history in fourth grade, American history in fifth, world history in sixth, and then I think world history again in seventh and American in eighth, then world in tenth and American in eleventh. I'm not sure the hundred-years war would have been covered before tenth, but to be honest it's all kind of a blur.

Plenty of Shakespeare, too, but I too didn't encounter the histories until college.

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