We asked our son whether he had heard of Lewis and Clark before. He asked “You mean Lois & Clark, the Superman show?” “No, no, the explorers,” I said. He hadn’t. The difficulty facing a kid in the 21st Century is that every year that passes brings more to find out and learn than ever before. He and his buddies have their own interests and obsessions, and the ever-changing school curriculum has, with big thumbs-up from me, been emphasizing more people, from diverse backgrounds and ethnicity, than the same core canon of the same three dozen American heroes that the generations before mine enshrined and sanctified. I’d much rather his teachers spend a few minutes on Katherine Johnson, who passed away last week, than Lewis and Clark.
Earlier today, we were in Nashville for a real quick day trip to visit Marie’s sister. She’s relocated to Arizona but was in town for a conference. She and her team had a couple of free hours before their flight home, so we went to see her and get some lunch and do some quick shopping. We’d visited Parnassus Books once before and left incredibly impressed. Today, our son and I found this remarkable series under the umbrella title Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, which presents “thrilling, daring, and downright gruesome stories from American history, in Graphic novel form.” I insisted that he bring Big Bad Ironclad home with him. He’s probably a bit too gentle for the one about the Donner Party, but he can get behind big 19th Century warships knocking the daylights out of each other.
Our kid’s not the biggest fan of sitting still and learning names and dates and facts and figures, but maybe if the material’s presented in an exciting or funny way, he might take a fact or two to bed with him. In tonight’s Jack of All Trades, Lewis and Clark show up in Pulau-Pulau thinking that George Washington is still the president and that the island is Oregon. It’s a screamingly funny episode with a hilarious accidental deathtrap and a magnetized suit of armor. He was howling with laughter, and with good reason. That bit where a volley of musket balls freeze in mid-air before changing direction is hysterical.
So not a bad day for our son. He learned about the Battle of Hampton Roads and he even met Sacajawea. Maybe he didn’t do it the traditional way, but he knows a thing or two he didn’t yesterday.