21 July 2005

The Savoir Vivre of American Heroes

A recent news story disclosed that the typical entering college student could not name five American heroes. Typically, those entering less selective schools had trouble naming any five notable Americans, while those entering elite schools didn’t think enough of America to say that five Americans were “heroes.” Naturally, I wanted to see the state of affairs in my own household, so at dinner that night I asked my kids to name five American heroes. I was dying with curiosity as to who they might name: Smedley Butler? Klaus Fuchs? Harry Hay? Father Coughlin? Emperor Norton? At first I was not disappointed ...

Pod-Man: Dalton Trumbo, because he broke the black list.

Bean-Girl: Mother Flynn, because she’s a mom.

Pumpkin: Lucy Parsons, because she worked for justice all her life.

Pod-Man: Colonel McCormick, because he knew how to live!

Bean-Girl: Hey, Charles Gates Dawes’ Mansion is a whole lot nicer than the Cantigny!

Pod-Man: Is not! Cantigny has that cool Art Deco bar, and that machine that makes 650 ice cubes at once, and it’s own private landing strip!

Bean-Girl: Yeah, well the Dawes Mansion is right by the lake, and it has that cool library and that glass solarium, and ...

At this point the discussion broke down into an argument about which of these reactionary, Republican millionaires had the nicer mansion, so I would count the experiment as a failure: my children could not name five American heroes.

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