Friday, April 22, 2005

SOS History of Kentucky Review

I grew up in Ohio, where part of the curricula is learning the history of Ohio. I can recall from this class that Ohio has 88 counties, which is the only piece of trivia I retain. Yet, I thought it might be wise to cover something of the state, make that Commonwealth, in which we live. I purchased the Switched-On-Schoolhouse Kentucky History program.

The lessons in the program are short and sweet, though not particularly exciting or enlivening. Focusing too much on dates and facts, the content misses some key points. For example, we delved into the issue of slavery in this border state. One interesting point was that Kentucky was the only state that had members in the cabinet of both the Union and Confederate governments. It was stated that Kentucky did not have a large number of slaves, but did not at all touch the reasons why. From other reading that I have done, I know that Kentucky was a breeding state: many slaves here were coldly used, like livestock, to produce more slaves, which were then sold South.

The program is most entirely about white settlement. There is a brief mention in the beginning about the Indians that built the Wickliffe Mounds, but only in passing. No mention is made of how the white settlers came to control the land, or what happened to the populations displaced because of their settlement.

While it has served as a starting point for further study, it concerns me greatly that this shallow look at Kentucky History might used by some as comprehensive, which it most certainly is not. I would purchase it again though, as we have used it as a basis for further discussion. For example, we recently talked over dinner what it means that Kentucky is a Commonwealth, and not a State.

Visiting places in Kentucky, tied into good, real books, is a more lasting way to learn about Kentucky. I don't want to teach my children how many counties there are, but no real understanding of this beautiful place. I leave you with a list of books I have really enjoyed, but are for the older reader. I'd love to put together a list of good books on Kentucky History for the middle school age, and would like to hear from you if you have suggestions.

The following is a series by Janet Holt Giles, a Kentucky author, dealing with white settlement. Some graphic violence, particularly in The Kentuckians, is not suitable for young children.

The Kentuckians
Hannah Fowler
The Believers

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