American idiots in London

Now that the college Spring Break season has died down and a proliferation of photo albums have been posted on Facebook, I find myself spending many classroom minutes perusing them when I should be paying attention rather than living vicariously through some of my dear friends. While there are some shocking pictorial accounts of beer bongs, beaches and animal-shaped towels on cruise liners, I must say there is one photo that takes the cake.

During Virginia Tech's break, several old friends of mine journeyed to London to visit a mutual friend who decided to study overseas for her undergraduate years. They brought along a book titled "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the American Revolution" and proceeded to take pictures of each other throughout the city holding the book and looking puzzled. The prizewinner depicts one participant reading the book to a Royal Guard standing stoically at duty. Pictures really do speak a thousand words.

After looking at these pictures, I must admit I laughed out loud during my history class (sorry, Professor Holt). I am amazed by three things: First, if one is in England, it seems ridiculous that one would invest in anything but an English-related read. Do as the Romans do, I say. Perhaps imbibe in some Chaucer, Shakespeare, or even better, the six-volume collection of Churchill's "The Second World War."

Second, I'm relatively disappointed in the lack of security instituted by the British government. If three college-aged "adults" can gallivant around the royal palace in such an outlandish way, who's to say what might happen when British national security is actually threatened? Plus, the succession of pictures would be so much better with some admonishing and finger-wagging from one of those adorable little policemen.

Finally, I am absolutely disgusted in our nation's lack of historical reverence. Are we so ignorant that we must concoct a quick and incredibly abridged summary of how our own nation came to be that is filled with more kitschy side notes and blown-up pictures than substantial texts or documents? Must we associate the name and principles of the American Revolution with a book series that claims to explain such stalwart and multifaceted concepts to people of inadequate intellectual boundaries?

Before I go on, please know that I am not completely devoid of humor. This was a hilarious diversion, and my respect for my friends went up threefold. I imagine my pals not only represented the American people with flying colors across the pond, but also conducted themselves humbly, graciously and politely. These pictures, cheeky yet endearing, will most likely serve as great conversation starters for many years to come. My issue is not with my friends (even though they do go to Tech) but rather the book in question.

There are many arguments about what our education system must do for our impressionable youth. While I feel that the outcome of an education is only as good as what one puts into it, I also believe there are several imperatives in which we must instruct our youth, one of them being the foundations of American history. Yes, math and science are great. Yes, students probably need those skills to keep up with the increasingly technological job market and to compete with other nations that absolutely trump us in these categories; however, they will still be American citizens and must be able to account for their political heritage. No one should need a book downplaying the course of the American Revolution because his educational background should already have fostered an awareness of those events. Also, if you are going to brush up on the facts, at least choose to purchase a book that doesn't have "Idiot" plastered across it. Opt for something that will create at least an illusion of sophistication.

One fear I have about books like these is the vibe it gives to our foreign friends (and enemies). If they see Americans create books for the unintelligent citizen, how much stock can someone from another country take in our nation's intellectual worth? We already have enough weight on our shoulders (I won't name names or regions of the country), we aren't looking for any more of that. In all honesty, those guards probably took one glance at these jokers from the stern periphery of their unflinching eyes and let out a miniscule sigh of relief that they did actually part ways with the colonists.

The moral of this story? Take good pictures while on trips for my edification, don't buy books that make you look stupid, and for Pete's sake, pay attention in class.

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