In my case, when it comes to Civil War trivia, no. I definitely am NOT smarter than a fifth grader.
As part of my job – a major part, obviously - I am often approached by teachers with concerns regarding their students’ speech. Last month I had a fifth grade teacher ask me to listen to the articulation of two of her students and I told her that I’d gladly come in to observe them in the classroom. Finally getting a day where my (rare) unscheduled time coincided with when these particular students were in her class, I walked into her room this afternoon intent to informally assess the speech sound development of the two identified students and unknowingly walked in to a refresher course on the Civil War.
Once upon a time many moons ago one of my favorite subjects as an elementary and junior high school student was social studies. I was particularly interested in anything to do with Abraham Lincoln. I embrace my nerdiness by confessing that I checked out Abraham Lincoln biographies – at my leisure even - on more than one occasion from our school and public libraries. The General disagrees, but I would love to travel to Washington D.C. and other parts of the east coast to visit the historical sights and some of the famous battlegrounds of the Civil War. I thoroughly enjoyed family vacations to Springfield, and I took great pleasure in visiting all the Lincoln related attractions – his tomb in particular – while there. Some people take souvenir photographs with Mickey Mouse during family vacations. Me? I pose with Honest Abe’s bust. I suppose that makes me a full fledged dork, but at least I wasn’t begging for McDonald’s and professing my extreme hunger for the duration of the trip unlike brother. He was clearly anything but starving to death, yet with his incessant cries for nutrition you would have thought he hadn’t eaten in days. I'd be willing to bet my parents were wholeheartedly embracing my inner nerd as I spouted off random facts about Abraham Lincoln (note to The General's family: you'll notice this is hobby which has continuned into adulthood - you can count on more trivia quizzes with each subsequent family trip so learn to deal with it).
Anyway, back to present day, upon entering the classroom this teacher told her students that they were going to showcase their Civil War knowledge by providing answers to her trivia questions in preparation for their field trip to a Civil War re-enactment tomorrow morning. I smugly thought, “Oh, great. An unexpected review of information I already know”. And then I ate crow.
Did you know there were seven Lincoln-Douglass debates? Did you also know that these CCIS fifth graders could name every single location each debate took place?
Me? Not so much.
Could you list all the majors Civil War battle and tell which side – Union or Confederacy – won each battle?
I could not, and I looked like a total moron when the classroom teacher asked me to confirm when she started to doubt herself. My response was a very intellectual, “Uh, I have no idea”. The fifth graders in this room knew where to find the answers though.
Do you know the name of the general for both the North and the South?
I think I probably used to, but could I come up with both of them today? Fat chance.
Everyone has heard of the Gettysburg Address. Do you know why Lincoln gave that address? Do you also know that one of the most famous speeches ever given in our country’s history lasted a mere two and a half minutes?
Then some Illinois trivia – how many counties are there? And did you know there have been three state capitals?
The fifth grade superstars I observed today not only knew that little tidbit of information, but they could even name all three captials, former and present. And Chicago isn’t even one of them!
In addition to getting the information I originally came into the class to obtain (both demonstrated a weak /r/ in the final position, intelligibility is good, no need for evaluation in case you’re dying to know) I walked out of that fifth grade classroom with a renewed interest in the Civil War and a new found respect for the knowledge base a classroom teacher must possess in her quest for education her students.
More importantly, I learned that I am not even close to being qualified to home school my daughters and should immediately banish myself from even entertaining the thought ever again. If I’m that rusty in a subject with which I took great deal of interest all those years ago, I can’t even imagine how stupid I would feel after sitting through a fifth grade math class. Good gravy, I couldn’t handle the humiliation. Needless to say, I’m going to have to meet Jeff Foxworthy some other way ‘cause there ain’t no way I’m embarrassing myself on national television.
At least not on purpose.