I can see why children hate history. I’m returning the textbook on the history of the District of Columbia to my library since it is ILL (inter library loan) and it is just depressing. Really, I can see why school children can hate history. I love history. It is like learning about another country, where you can’t get a visa.
The textbook, City of Magnificent Intentions: A History of Washington, District of Columbia is useful in that it is crammed, crammed I say, with dates and facts. What I learned from what little I read and skimmed through has been fascinating. However, I read very little because I could not read this like I have been able to do with other books. Reading, I felt like tons and tons of facts were being shoved at me and the story, the narrative was secondary. It was like reading the encyclopedia…. for those of you who remember encyclopedias when they were in book form.
I understand why the book was written the way it was written. Gotta shove those dates and facts at the kids. You can test for that. But it does not make for leisure reading and I can see how a reader can get resentful.
It is most enjoyable when you flip through it. The photographs of people and locations around the District are interesting and the maps showing growth in the region has been helpful. Reading subsections of chapters is do-able, and pausing to think about what was written, and applying it to the present, allows for ah-ha moments. For example there is a section on neighborhood history and white flight to the suburbs and an organization “Neighbors, Inc”. A caption in the chapter reads:
By fostering communication and cooperation, Neighbors, Inc. helped halt “white flight” in the part of Northwest roughly east of 16th Street and north of Kennedy Street.
It ends on a sad note as it was published in 1997. It leaves with a Control Board overseeing the District government, Marion ‘the bitch set me up’ Barry was re-elected, and downtown DC decaying. Sitting here 10 years in the book’s future with no control board, a young bald mayor named Adrian and a vibrant downtown, I feel good.