Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Hang the Canoe Thief!

Out west, tradition held that stealing a man’s horse was the most despicable and life threatening action imaginable.  A horse thief was usually hanged without the benefit of a jury trial. 

I recently came across the following article in the Sauk Rapids Frontierman on 7 June 1855: 

The meanest and most contemptible action we know of, is for a white man to steal a canoe.  It is a common occurrence, for some people who are going to the Falls or St. Paul, and who are either too stingy or mean to pay for a passage down by land or purchase a canoe, to steal the first one they chance to see.  The people residing upon the river have lost a large number during the past two years, and we have lately been made a victim by one of this class of detestable beings—canoe stealers.  It may seem cunning, and be a cheap way to go down stream, but if we ever find out the thief, he will learn to his satisfaction that “Jordan am a hard road to travel.”

I wonder if the editor considered hanging too good for any of these canoe thieves:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Some Good News For Minnesota History

The Mpls./St. Paul Star Tribune published an interesting article on-line that suggests Minnesota students are generally well informed about American History.  Coming from a teaching background in Georgia, this is great news.

According to the article, teachers and student evaluators in Minnesota give students high marks for knowing the basics of U. S. History.  Unfortunately they lack depth in their understanding.  Students know who Thomas Jefferson was, that Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency in disgrace, and the basics of World War II.  Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily understand Watergate or appreciate the relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemings. 

This is a big deal.  I once taught U. S. History at a university in Georgia where students didn’t know who won World War II!!  It sounds like Minnesota is doing well to teach their children their history.  Nationwide the news is not so good.  A report quoted in the article notes that only 12 percent of 12th grade students, nationwide, are “proficient or better” in history.  Anecdotal evidence puts Minnesota higher than that.

So, Minnesota students receive high marks.  Yet, we can’t let the emphasis on Math and Science take away from teaching history.  The phrase “well rounded education” exists for a reason.  We need to make everyone who is involved in the education system realize that allowing history to take a back seat to other subjects is not an acceptable alternative.

We are doing okay, but we must do better.