As I enjoy the relaxation that the summer holidays afford me, giving me a chance to actually write something after over a month of blog silence, I find myself back in the United States. This time, I’m spending ten days with my wife, driving around Yellowstone National Park. Why am I here again a year after my last trip, and for the fourth time in total? What is it about this country, which dominates a large part of my teaching time, that I am so drawn to?
The politics, with all it failings, do intrigue me. I was finally able to watch ‘Lincoln’ on the flight over (I know, the shame of a history teacher not seeing it the moment it came out!). As both a film and a representation of a piece of history, I thought it was brilliantly made. I’d almost recommend my new year 12 student watch it as an introduction to both the context of the civil rights and to the US Political System.
The people also fascinate me. Every individual is of course unique, but never more than in the US will you meet such a difference in manners, from the Walmart checkout assistant or car rental customer service agent who couldn’t possibly be nicer, to the baggage assistant or customs officer at Chicago airport whose rudeness shocked the both of us! Again, ‘Lincoln’ reveals the vast variety of political opinion and approach to human interactions.
The country does have some stunning scenery too, as I drove my Sporty looking Nissan Maxima into Yellowstone National Park, I almost felt liken the fourth presenter on Top Gear, so beautiful was the road we drove upon. Sadly, ‘Lincoln’ was only able to highlight the damage done to ugh beautiful terrain by the US Civil War.
What is America anyway? A United country? The land of the free, of the brave, of opportunity- can it be all of these things? Although the American Dream claims that it can be, I don’t believe all of the diverse US Citizens I encountered just today would agree.Both Lincoln and Adlee Stephens wished the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, would bring about greater equality. Whilst it has achieved that in part, would they be calling the US of today ‘America the beautiful’?
Ultimately, I think it is this very variety that makes the USA so fascinating to new how it can call such a diverse nation the United States, how it can be tied together despite its differences, and somehow hold- for now at least- the position at the head of the table. My time here this year will hopefully give me the opportunity to relax, interact and aiming in sine small way to emulate both Lincoln and his associates of such a profound time, educate myself further on its ways and wishes, diversity and dreams, history and hopes- in order that I may help students understand this complex subject material further.