Thursday, March 5th, 2009
Schoolbook Patriotism, circa 1969
My wife and I are children’s book hoarders. Or rather, I’m the hoarder and she puts up with me. I acquired All Around the City at a recent public school surplus sale where decades of old tables, desks and books get unloaded.
All Around the City is a California state textbook for first graders, circa 1969. It’s part of an “urban reading series” containing “stories of city life and tales of long ago.” It’s a four-part series, K-4, along with Happy Days in the City, Good Times in the City and Adventures in the City.
The book opens with a printed song to the tune of “This is the way we wash our clothes.”
“Here is the way we help our land,
Help our land,
Help our land;
Here is the way we help our land
When we are
The text then asks, “Are you a good American? How do you help?” The patriotism connection ends there, unless I don’t understand the meaning of the word.
A dozen stories and poems follow with these notable titles:
- The Tortilla Goes to School. It’s a heart warming Mexican-American tale about a boy ashamed that his mom packs a tortilla in his lunch instead of white bread. Peace is restored when his teacher queries the class about other foods from far away lands that we like to eat, such as pizza and chop suey.
- Arrowheads for Stan and Mike. When a construction worker unearths arrowheads at a construction site, does he notify state authorities, anthropologists and the local Native American tribes so they can investigate? Of course not! He gives the arrowheads to Stan and Mike, two school kids who are watching the construction activity.
- A Ride on the New Swingset. Big Bart bullies Penny off her swing, so Penny’s friend Tom bullies Bart off his swing. Hmmm, bullying. I guess that could be seen as patriotic… for a world superpower.
- Daddy is a Police Officer. Mommy is a sobbing mess and calls her friend over to help her cope with house chores. The problem? Daddy (apparently… it’s not fully explained) called home to say he nabbed a gun-toting bank robber today. Mommy doesn’t like being reminded that she could become a widow at any moment. Her two kids remain fairly oblivious to the life drama.
- Kathy’s Birthday. Kathy tells her seven friends she wants the music record Go, Go, Go by Funny Fox for her birthday. Oddly enough, Kathy receives seven identical birthday gifts. Mommy fixes the disaster the next day by giving her daughter six new records. Yay, America! Consume! Consume!
- A Teeny-Tiny Bone. This is an abridged version of a classic English ghost story about a women who finds a bone at a cemetery and takes it home intending to use it to make soup. (The abridged version has the woman finding the bone on a road.) That night, in bed, she hears a voice from inside her cupboard shouting “Give me my bone!” She is repeatedly hounded, then shouts “Take it!” and throws the bone. The end. It left me thinking, WTF?
- The other patriotic stories: The Boy Who Called Wolf, Old (a poem), The Three Bears, One Two Three (a rhyme) and Little Red Fox.