Home > Education, Family, Geography, History, Music > Don’t Know Much About History

Don’t Know Much About History

November 27, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

With Joel’s return from Boston two nights ago, I had the pleasure of his company yesterday as we drove around the city doing assorted errands. Last night, as I recalled some of our day’s conversation, I thought about how I used to quiz him, 10 or 12 years ago, when we walked (or I walked and he rollerbladed) around the neighborhood. Here were some of my standard questions:

1. What states border Canada?
2. What states border the Atlantic?
3. What states border the Gulf of Mexico?
4. What states have the Mississippi River flowing through them?

Joel was pretty good on the first three. The fourth was harder. And then there was my favorite challenge:

5. Name the presidents of the United States, in order.

The starting point for this last one was a small paperback Scholastic book with two pages on each president, in chronological order, that Joel ordered through school. And in working through it with Joel, I finally filled in the gaps in my own knowledge. I knew all the presidents, but somehow I got fuzzy in the 1840-1860 and 1880-1900 periods about the ordering.

My problem in the first of those two periods was remembering which military hero who died early in office was which between William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor. I knew the 1840 campaign slogan Tippecanoe and Tyler Too, so I knew the military hero at Tippecanoe was succeeded by Tyler, but I didn’t remember what Tippecanoe was or who was there. Now I have no trouble remembering that Old Tippecanoe is Harrison and that he won a decisive battle near the Tippecanoe River in Indiana Territory over Indians as part of his ongoing fight with Tecumseh.

As for 1880-1900, my main problem had to do with Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. The first also pitched. Or was that someone else? And the second was the grandson of William Henry Harrison. Or was it the other way around? And one served a term as president, lost re-election to the other one, then won re-election four years later. Which was which?

Grover Cleveland

Benjamin Harrison

Again, I have no trouble with that now. I even know that Grover Cleveland didn’t win 373 games after his presidency. Wrong guy. Grover Cleveland Alexander did.

Grover Cleveland Alexander

Which brings me to the title of this post. There must be a reason I focused on history and geography in Joel’s education. And on algebra in my own mathematical research. And have posted on anti-intellectualism and anti-science in the recent presidential campaign here and here and here. What’s the common theme? It came to me last night: The Sam Cooke song Wonderful World (co-written with Herb Alpert and Lou Adler). I looked up the lyrics. Here they are:

Don’t know much about History
Don’t know much Biology
Don’t know much about Science books
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you loved me too
What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about Geography
Don’t know much Trigonometry
Don’t know much about Algebra
Don’t know what a slide rule is for
But I know that one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be

Now I don’t claim to be an A student
But I’m tryin’ to be
Oh maybe by being an A student, baby
I can win your love for me

Don’t know much about History
Don’t know much Biology
Don’t know much about Science books
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you loved me too
What a wonderful world this would be

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you loved me too
What a wonderful world this would be

Have these lyrics been woven throughout my life without my realizing it? While I think this through, let me draw your attention to David Bromberg’s distinctive take on Wonderful World.

David Bromberg

David Bromberg

Bromberg is the great guitarist-singer-songwriter and studio musician of the 1960s and 1970s who put it all aside in 1980 so he could learn how to make violins. He does it all now: violin making, violin repair, violin dealing, music making. And in 1975, he recorded one of the great versions of the song, with his own variations on the lyrics. My favorite line: “I can’t figure out that psycho-thermo-nucleo-physio-nomony.” Check it out. (And while you’re at it, be sure to listen again to his version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s Mr. Bojangles. Bromberg played on Jerry Jeff Walker’s recording, then made his own.)

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: