Saturday, February 08, 2014


When I write my Third Culture Mystery Series, I always try to sneak in some social issue, not much, just a little.

In Murder in Caleb's Landing, I not only wanted to show what slavery was like before the Civil War, but that it still exists today. I wrote it well before the CNN campaign to end slavery around the world.

A second theme in the book was domestic abuse which was very closely related to the murder itself.

But I wasn't content with that. Running into Americans who know nothing about world history and sometimes even less about their own country, has always frustrated me. Prime examples, two recent college graduates who didn't know anything about John Calvin, Puritanism or even pilgrims.

Why should they?

Because it is the foundation of the country that they live in.

They did know about Thanksgiving but more in terms of food and football. I could write blog after blog about the lack of historical knowledge or fill Wikipedia with the misconceptions.

We won't get into lack of geographical awareness when engineers talking to me at the company where I used to work in Geneva would ask about the weather in Stockholm.

Switzerland, Sweden, what's the difference? Hadn't they even known what city they were calling?

They both start with SW. If it happened once, that would be one thing, but variations of the total lack of basic knowledge were regular.

Thus I had my heroine be hired to do a reality version of the settling of Massachusetts from all points of view. Naturally the school board went nuts at the unpatriotic presentation. At the time I thought maybe I was being over the top, but conflict keeps readers turning pages.

I wish I'd had the award-winning book Lies my Teacher Told Me as I was writing Caleb's Landing. It explains why students often don't like history. The pap presented is boring and totally erodes any chance of critical thinking. The historian does an in-depth look at 12 leading history books.He also went into plagiarism, the necessity to not mention anything controversial to sell, the names of the authors were often for show because freelancers who may or may not know history were the real writers, and on and on and on...

But I shouldn't have been surprised. A writer friend was talking about having moved to Mexico and her son was in a Mexican school system. He came home one day and this was the gist of their conversation.

Son: You know the Mexican-American war we studied before we left the States?

Mother: Yes.

Son: We're studying it here.

Mother: That's good.

Son: But it's not the same war.

Would that all school children learn different points of view all which have some validity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not only the U.S. Spanish kids know next to nothing about their own history, much less world history. Some college graduates don't even know who Franco was or what he did.