A month’s worth of the War of 1812

Check out this fascinating item from NPR on the differences between teaching the War of 1812 in U.S. schools and teaching it in Canada.  A teacher in Utah spends “a couple of days” on the war, with doses of the national anthem and Johnny Horton.  A teacher in Ontario, by contrast, devotes “three to four weeks” to it.

Three to four weeks!  As a pre-Civil War kind of guy, I’d love to have that much time for early American subjects in my survey classes.

Canadian units on the war aren’t just longer.  They’re qualitatively different, full of important victories and heroic characters like Laura Secord.  You’ve never heard of Laura Secord?  Don’t sweat it; neither had I, and I’m supposed to have a master’s degree in this kind of stuff.

Here are a few other items from around the Interwebs on the War of 1812 and the way we remember it—or fail to:

  • One reason our memory is selective might be because America didn’t come out of the war’s first two years looking particularly good.
  • Donald Hickey is editing a series of books on the war for John Hopkins University Press.
  • Baltimore kicked off the bicentennial with maritime festivities…
  • …and hosted a ceremony where reps from the U.S., Britain, and Canada buried the hatchet.  I’m still not forgiving them for Russell Brand.
  • Finally, a Pennsylvania schoolteacher and his students suggest that we should re-christen the conflict the “Second War of Independence.”  Not bad, but maybe we could add a little Hollywood-style pizzazz.  I’m thinking WI:2 or War of Independence 2: War Harder.  Too bad The Empire Strikes Back is already taken.


Filed under History and Memory, Teaching History

3 responses to “A month’s worth of the War of 1812

  1. Bob

    The bicentennial of this important but neglected conflict by Americans has ignited an interest in the conflict for me. This weekend I take a two hour cruise on a replica of a War of 1812 era privateer, the Lynx. Much of the NPR report I agreed with, however NPR never misses a chance to slant the report with an anti-American tinge. For the record, I am not a right wing religious radical, and I consider myself more of a moderate which tends to be a pejorative term these days. The above referenced report did manage to make the USA appear to be the heavy. I am reminded of the PBS program early this year or late in 2011 about the War of 1812, and it was definitely an anti-American viewpoint or a program that was was written solely by Canadian historians. I am open minded, but I view all things from NPR and PBS with great suspect.

    As for the U.S.’s lack of interest in this major event, it is unfortunate, to a small extent, that it coincides with the tail end of the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War and most unfortunate that the 200th anniversary is being conducted in the middle of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. It is cause for celebration for Canada and Canadians, perhaps their most significant home grown historical event. I wonder what happens when the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Great War begins

  2. Matt McKeon

    I was in Canada last summer and they were gearing up for the bicentential. It is a little odd to go to an historic site and realize your country is the bad guy from this point of view, especially when the Canadian park rangers are all so polite. Or as one guy said: “Americans get very…excited…about politics.” There was a hilarious phoney trailer for a 1812 action picture where all the actors are confused over the cause. I couldn’t find it, but it does kind of sum up 1812’s lack of respect compared to the Revolution or Civil War.

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