Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Michigan is Old: Yes, or No?

Recently I had a meeting in Howell. I hadn't been there in several years, and my colleague said to me, "Oh, Howell is a very old town." Well, really? (I didn't say that, though.) I think Howell is about as old as Ann Arbor, a town founded in the first half of the 19th century. Since I grew up in a town on the East Coast that was settled in the 1600s--a town where pre-Revolutionary War era houses and gravestones still stand--I think--well, not really! Is Howell old? Definitely not old, when you compare it to the 15th century house my father-in-law lived in, in Europe. Yes, old is relative.

The point is--the East Coast experience of colonial history is very different from that experience here. Trying to teach colonial history in the Ann Arbor schools--in my limited experience--is not that different from teaching about the Greeks and Romans. It seems very distant, not immediate.

And yet...what about Ojibway culture? What about the French settlements in Detroit? What about Fort Mackinaw? What about les Voyageurs? What about the War of 1812? I think we could find ways to make that history--Michigan history--present. But at the present time, I don't believe it is.


  1. Hi -- I found you via the Ann Arbor Chronicle post. I also have 3 kids in AAPS, and my husband teaches at Pioneer. Plus, we are both townies who came up through AAPS ourselves. I've subscribed to your feed and look forward to reading more!

    I also wanted to point out that Michigan history, including French settlements and native culture, are a significant part of the fourth grade social studies curriculum, at least at Eberwhite and Bach. :-) But I agree, it could be emphasized a lot more than it is.

  2. Hi Julie--Yes, Michigan history is part of the fourth grade social studies curriculum in all schools in Ann Arbor (maybe in the whole state?). It doesn't seem to get much attention in middle school and high school though, even though there is time for U.S. history.