Saturday, August 05, 2006

"I learned to love history by way of books"


The Course of Human Events, David McCullough

"I learned to love history by way of books," says author David McCullough. McCullough is high on my list of admirable people. Not only is he a gifted historian with a pen, he seems like a person with whom you would love to spend hours talking. I remember seeing him in a short television interview speaking kindly of his family and of children and thought how wonderful a grandfather he must be.

While at the beach, I listened to The Course of Human Events several times during morning walks. Since home, I've listened to it again. And I will again someday. Although the transcript is available online (
here), I enjoy listening to McCullough speaking.

Some of McCullough's thoughts from
The Course of Human Events:

"There should be no hesitation ever about giving anyone a book to enjoy, at any age. There should be no hesitation about teaching future teachers with books they will enjoy. No harm's done to history by making it something someone would want to read."
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"We are what we read more than we know."
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From John Adams in France while he was separated from his family:

"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study paintings, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."
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"The oldest written constitution still in use in the world today is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, drafted by John Adams in 1778, just two years after the Declaration of Independence and fully a decade before our national Constitution. In many respects it is a rough draft of our national Constitution. But it also contains a paragraph on education that was without precedent. Though Adams worried that it would be rejected as too radical, it was passed unanimously. Listen, please, to what it says:


Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties. [Which is to say that there must be wisdom, knowledge, and virtue or all aspirations for the good society will come to nothing.] And as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people [that is, everyone], it shall be the duty [not something they might consider, but the duty] of legislatures and magistrates in all future periods of this commonwealth to cherish the interests and literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them ... public schools, and grammar schools in the towns.
And he goes on to define what he means by education. It is literature and the sciences, yes, but much more: agriculture, the arts, commerce, trades, manufacturers, "and a natural history of the country." It shall be the duty, he continues,
to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty [we will teach honesty] ... sincerity, [and, please note] good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.
What a noble statement!"
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Adams had written in his diary, "I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading."
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More of David McCullough's books will be on my 2007 reading list.
A complete transcript of this lecture can be found here. And an insightful interview with McCullough as he expounds more of his thoughts can be found here.

1 comment:

Carol in Oregon said...

Oh Janie, we ARE twins!! I have come to appreciate DMcC soooo much in the last few years and I heartily concur with your thoughts - he seems so decent. He's high on my list too. And reading his complete repetoire is part of my to-do for the next few years.

I am currently listening to "The Johnstown Flood" by DMcC - but don't have much opportunity this week. I thought it would be a great prelude to my PA trip.

I enjoyed your Fine Art Friday and especially the picture at the beach. It is you, is it not? Perfect!

Tomorrow is the evening to see the great Yo-Yo Ma. This trip is a taxing one on many fronts and I'm praying that the music will wash over me and refresh my soul.