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View Full Version : America:The Story of US/Hoping thread won't get heated but I need to vent



GothicGyrl
09-26-2010, 12:16 PM
I just recently got my free copy of this from the History channel and I have to really vent. I LOVE IT! I absolutely LOVE the fact that they tell history from a TRUE historical standpoint.

That said, here's where the thread may turn heated and the reason for my vent. I was recently reading on another, uhh, "good-behavior" forum(think about it), a thread about this particular DVD and how they "did not like it", it was "too patriotic", "too gory", "too biased", "America blah blah".

I watched the entire first disk last night because of that thread and ran a play by play on my private board. For those that visit this other site, I feel the need to defend this DVD against their (wrong) accusations. Here is my breakdown of why I think they did not like it and why some "immediately" trashed it:

1. The opening segment is President Obama giving a "rah-rah" speech. Very blase, actually; but all about how America was founded on the "blood, sweat, ideals, and hard-work" of the many people you will see in the following show.

2. The inclusion of many celebrities throughout. These celebrities are not re-enactors, but instead they were giving their opinion on the segments previous to them, and how that particular thing affected them (for example, Sheryl Crow talking about the women's suffragette movement). These were not in your face segments, in fact, they lasted a mere 20 seconds if that.

3. The lack of "christian" anything in it. It starts talking about John Rolfe and how he arrived here to plant eventually come to plant tobacco and how the "back-bone of America was a tobacco plant" because that simply act by Rolfe basically saved them from starvation, from everything because it opened up our new world to trade and commerce. Oh and the lack of telling us that Pocahontas was actually a Christian woman named Rebecca who became so because she married Rolfe (abeka and bju both teach this).

4. From there, they complain that the Pilgrims were not painted in a "Christian enough" light. That they were made to look "stupid" and un-educated. Well, yes. The pilgrims only marginally learned from the previous Europeans mistakes but they learned enough that it helped them survive because they actually treated the Native Americans with respect and learned from them. And because of that, they did not like the fact that the "first thanksgiving" wasn't about "God and prayer"--it was just a meal that happened between the Natives and the Pilgrims.

5. From there it talks about our colonies and our fore-fathers. Of course, the complainers are angry that again, there is no "christian" in any of this, makes no mention of our fore-fathers being such, and makes no mention of our country being a "christian nation". The next few segments are all about what shaped us as Americans, how we became who we are because of the people before us--even if those people were ruthless scoundrels who treated anyone who was not white as slaves. We had to start somewhere and this was it. It also talks about Lewis and Clark and how Sacajawea helped them make it through their trip. But the complaint is that they do not tell how Sacajawea married one of them and converted to Christianity because of it (abeka and BJU again).

6. The Donner Party is the next biggest complaint. They complain that the DVD (yet, they state they never watched past a few minutes, go figure) was too "gory, graphic, patriotic, and yes, we get that war is bad". None of which is true. Everything is done hollywood style--which sounds like a bad thing but it isn't. Bullets flying were slowed down, but you never really see them hit, you see what looks like a hit, then a body falling. Yes, there is blood, but not nearly enough IMHO. And the Donner party--the whole point of this was to tell us how one major mistake led to the expansion of that particular part of our country. It was also to tell us how bad they really had it and that they resorted to cannibalism because of it. The bodies? So obviously fake and covered with snow, dirt, and other things that you can tell *something* is there, but without the narrator, you are hard-pressed to find it.

7. Next, we move on to the revolutionary war, then the civil war and in between those things, the women's suffragette movement and slavery. With the Revolutionary war, Paul Revere and Washington are painted a truer light--Washington was a dismal failure until the land owners banded together to help him win the final fight. Paul Revere says nothing of "one if by land" and instead spends his time riding throughout our country side warning of the impending attack by the British. Once we win and reclaim our independence, we get into the crux of our nation's building blocks--industrialization in the north and cotton and plantations in the south and thus, the civil war. Once the cotton gin was invented, slaves got smarter and the north--even though it profited from the cotton industry in the south, was against slavery. How the women's movement basically paved the way for women's rights and how slaves eventually became free men and women. How Harriet Tubman made the Underground Railroad what it was and without her, many people would not have gone free.

I'm now at the point of Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, which starts on the 2nd DVD. As you can see from the above, though I might be missing a few core things, the idea of this DVD is a "quick jaunt through our evolution as a nation" --though each segment is roughly an hour long, the mini-segments within the main one are roughly 5 minutes each. It covers a good part of our nation's history and how we became who we are because of them.

As you can see, I felt the need to defend this DVD from the false attacks being made. They are mainly that it isn't focusing on "Christian" anything and instead focusing on what really happened in our history (which to them, did not happen that way because that's not what they believe). I cannot say enough good things about this DVD and wanted my Secular Homeschooling friends to be aware of the negativity surrounding it and how it is completely false.

Thank you for your time,
Toni

archibael
09-26-2010, 12:38 PM
Well, in fairness to their viewpoint, I think trying to teach the Pilgrim era without a reference to religion is a bit like trying to teach biology without evolution and genetics: you can learn the facts okay but the underlying concepts are extremely unclear and incoherent.

However, fair is fair: if one wants to show the religiosity (which is probably not a word) of the earliest Americans, one must be certain to demonstrate through illustrations like the Salem witch trials and what they did to Anne Hutchinson that the while the first colonists came here because they wanted the freedom to "practice their religion", one major reason they weren't allowed to "practice" it in Jollie Olde Englande at the time was because their particular brand religion was a model of intolerance and viciousness even the Crown and Parliament couldn't stomach. It wasn't until colonies like Providence/Rhode Island had developed after a hundred years into places where real religious tolerance became possible that the colonists were mature enough to start a country where minor religious schisms weren't apt to destroy the whole thing in the blink of an eye.

Most Christians fail to acknowledge Tom Paine's influence on the independence movement, but even when they do mention Commonsense they fail to follow it up by noting that he was emphatically anti-Bible (read his The Age of Reason for illustration) and that he was imprisoned in Europe multiple times for essentially publishing anti-religious texts.

And one can also bring up the fact that while Australia and Georgia were once colonies of criminals, nowadays the people of those areas are renowned for their kindness and hospitality . Hopefully you will not have to explain the implications of that analogy to them. :)

GothicGyrl
09-26-2010, 01:14 PM
I do agree that teaching the pilgrims without the religion part is like teaching biology without evolution, however, they miss the point of this particular resource: it isn't to focus ON the religious aspect of any one thing, but to focus, instead, on the how they survived and thrived in the new world--paving the way for what becomes America. The thing with the pilgrims was that they learned how to get along with their Native friends (instead of persecuting them like their predecessors) and because of that, thrived into colonies that became our 13 colonies.

I think if they had focused on the religious aspect of it, it would have watered down the history too much. Yes, they came here to escape religious persecution (no matter how wrong they were), but it's what they did while here that matters to our history--not which bible they read from. KWIM?

archibael
09-26-2010, 01:22 PM
Of course I get your meaning. I was just hitting it from another angle. Besides, having not seen the DVD, I have to, of necessity, be a little general in discussing it. :)

wild_destiny
09-26-2010, 01:39 PM
That sounds like a worthwhile DVD. Wish I would have ordered it! However, I will say that in my own experience, there is no such thing as a truly unbiased history program. One book will describe George Washington (or the Pilgrims) in glowing terms, where another author will reveal their "humanity" (or sometimes, lack thereof). My own recommendation for studying history (or anything, for that matter) is to use multiple sources, which will give a more rounded series of perspectives from which to draw your own conclusions. That said, I still wish I had ordered this DVD. It sounds like it provides an excellent base of American history as it unfolded, and that it presents history in a living way. Really kicking myself here. But thanks for your listing of the points within it. :)

archibael
09-26-2010, 01:43 PM
This forum needs a "Like" button. ;) Often I see something written for which I have nothing useful to add yet I'd like the poster to know I think they're spot on.

GothicGyrl
09-26-2010, 01:45 PM
Actually, I got it for free--just as those complaining did. History channel was giving them away over the summer. :) Now, if you go to Natgeo.com and search for Great Migrations--there is an entire box set being given away for free from them--you just need a "school" name. :)

And I agree that history needs multiple sources to be well-rounded, but really, this was pretty darn solid and quite unbiased. It left out a lot of the things that people could claim bias on (like religion) and just covered the "they did this, went here and did that". :)

GothicGyrl
09-26-2010, 01:49 PM
And thank you, Archi. :) Ignore any spelling mistakes in my OP, I was typing "stream of conscientiousness" and that always causes spelling errors for me. :)

archibael
09-26-2010, 01:56 PM
Wow, where is Great Migrations for free? Didn't see anything obvious on the website, but this whole thing is very new to me and I don't know all the tricks yet.

GothicGyrl
09-26-2010, 02:05 PM
I'll make a new post in the links section.... :)

mommykicksbutt
09-26-2010, 02:23 PM
I got the free DVD too, I ordered the companion book as well and am now half way through reading it (I have not watched the DVDs yet). The book is fantastic! 1-4 pages of text, photos, and illistrations per significant events and people in our collective history. If the DVDs are anything like the book then it is indeed a gem. I will so be using this book (and in all likelihood the DVDs too) for US History next year. I highly recommend this book too!

I was able to order the Great Migrations for free but I heard that later that same day they closed the free DVD offer.

GothicGyrl
09-26-2010, 02:31 PM
I need to go look for the book. :)

Teri
09-26-2010, 03:19 PM
Actually, I got it for free--just as those complaining did. History channel was giving them away over the summer. :) Now, if you go to Natgeo.com and search for Great Migrations--there is an entire box set being given away for free from them--you just need a "school" name. :)




Do you have a link for this? I can't find it on the site for free.

GothicGyrl
09-26-2010, 03:21 PM
The story of us and the great migrations are no longer available. I just posted about it in the links section and if you go to the site, you will see that they stopped due to demand. :(

InstinctiveMom
09-26-2010, 04:45 PM
I have the DVD but haven't had a chance to watch it yet - I'm curious as to the content. From what you posted (thanks for the play by play!!), it sounds like a pretty good glance through the history of the US.

On it being too patriotic - if you're talking about the BUILDING OF A NATION, why you think that its going to be patriotic in nature?? That's kind of an odd thing to be annoyed about, IMO, lol.

In any case, I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to review it before I put it on for the kids.
~h

GothicGyrl
09-26-2010, 05:13 PM
The complaint was that it was "too patriotic"--too "rah rah built on the blood,sweat, tears, of men!" When in fact, quite the opposite is true--it's honestly NOT patriotic enough and it shouldn't be to remain an unbiased account. Which is funny considering how these same "christians" claim to be TRUE AMERICANS!! :)

I don't screen squat--never did, for my kids. However, I recognize some do, so I will tell you that there is blood, guts, and dead bodies :) But they are all in context and not overly hollywood-ish.

BPier12
09-26-2010, 05:34 PM
In the interests of offering other options for some of the same content, I highly recommend PBS's series 'Liberty' (you can get it on disc from Netflix). I've watched most of it and have found the content, pacing, use of primary sources, and production values to be excellent. I've only watched one hour so far of 'Story of US' and it doesn't even come close to the quality of the PBS series. I am not thrilled with it so far, but it has nothing to do with content as much as production values. The pacing is too fast, there is no depth at all to the content and I couldn't care less what Michael Douglas or Rudy Guiliani thinks about the founding of our country. I find these celebrity sound bites really disruptive to the narrative of the series. We'll probably continue to watch it, but my hopes for using it as a foundation in our US history study will not be fulfilled and I will continue to use Liberty and the Teaching Company's excellent series, Early American History: Native Americans through the Forty-Niners. Just my two cents.

InstinctiveMom
09-26-2010, 05:35 PM
It's not so much a 'screen' as it is and "I want to watch it all the way through" because once we put it on for 'school', then there's always tons of 'pause and discuss', lol.

GothicGyrl
09-26-2010, 05:42 PM
In the interests of offering other options for some of the same content, I highly recommend PBS's series 'Liberty' (you can get it on disc from Netflix). I've watched most of it and have found the content, pacing, use of primary sources, and production values to be excellent. I've only watched one hour so far of 'Story of US' and it doesn't even come close to the quality of the PBS series. I am not thrilled with it so far, but it has nothing to do with content as much as production values. The pacing is too fast, there is no depth at all to the content and I couldn't care less what Michael Douglas or Rudy Giuliani thinks about the founding of our country. I find these celebrity sound bites really disruptive to the narrative of the series. We'll probably continue to watch it, but my hopes for using it as a foundation in our US history study will not be fulfilled and I will continue to use Liberty and the Teaching Company's excellent series, Early American History: Native Americans through the Forty-Niners. Just my two cents.

See, and that's exactly why I like it. I think having the celebrities on the show gives an alternate viewpoint to what's being told. They have historians and other important figures on there as well, but I think having the celebrities balances out the "opinion" part of it very nicely. The pacing has to be fast to get to the main points--as someone once said, there is simply too much history for us to condense, so you take the most finest points and move through them. I DO care what they have to say, agree with their politics or not. I think what they have to say is just as important as what you or I have to say.

Likewise, the production values of the show make it much less dry than the PBS series or the Teaching Company. Don't get me wrong--I love both of them too, but balance is the key and I think that this has a lot of value to it--tons, especially for high school. So many things can be done with this alone that could make it a well rounded history program--all it takes is a willingness to work it out. :) And, I think it's just enough for a well-rounded elementary program as well. I have the TC's History of the United States as well as a book called The Story of America (DK) that I will be using as well, so it isn't like I'm making this the *only* thing.

I just disagree with you but that's okay :) I think this has much value to it and is something that can definitely be used as a stand-alone with extra researching/writing thrown in to it to make it well-rounded.

mamaraby
09-27-2010, 12:23 AM
I missed out on getting this one when I hesitated a bit. My kids are young enough that I didn't figure we'd be using it for awhile and wanted to leave it for others. I appreciate you posting the thread, though, as it certainly has me hoping our library will maybe get a copy.


I just disagree with you but that's okay :) I think this has much value to it and is something that can definitely be used as a stand-alone with extra researching/writing thrown in to it to make it well-rounded.

See, now I just wanted to applaud you for disagreeing with someone and yet not insisting that they're Hitler as a result! ;-)

Wilma
09-29-2010, 08:41 AM
We just started watching this. I think it is great. I have 2 complaints - one is the photography jumps around a lot. I know that is the popular style now, but I don't like it. My home movies can make me queasy, and in a family of migraine sufferers it is a PITA.

The other was the Donner Party, but it is more of a heads up. When I taught in CA I was shocked that we were not allowed to mention the Donner Party in 4th grade CA History. It was deemed too disturbing. I didn't get it. I knew about the Donner Party in 4th grade. In 5th grade I remember the kids reading that book about the soccer team involved in the plane crash in the Andes. You mention the cannibalism and move on. JMO. However, the dvd was very graphic in it's description of the cannibalism. They showed a man watching the birth of his child and later mentioned the child and his wife were dinner. And they talk about a kettle of blood. It was a little shocking for us, but if you have squeamish kids, they do get graphic.

That being said, I think a lot of history fails to relate just how much the colonists and pioneers were willing to sacrifice to accomplish what they did, and this series does a good job with that.

ETA: Obviously I missed some stuff the first time I watched. Seeing Jedediah Smith's scalp getting sewn back on with a piece of either twine or sinew after a grizzly swiped it off was much more gruesome than the words used to describe the Donner Party.

GothicGyrl
09-30-2010, 10:13 AM
See, and I don't find it gruesome at all. Admittedly, I am a horror movie buff so this stuff does not bother me or my kids, but honestly, I've seen worse stuff on children's tv than on this. The kettle of blood did not look like blood at all (maybe because I know what fake blood looks like), and the bit about him watching the birth then eating them? They never really said he at *them*, even if implied. And the grizzly/skull thing? Kids see far worse on regular tv (if your kids do) and remember: This series is not geared with homeschoolers (who may or may not watch regular tv) in mind.

It is geared for the general public who were never taught this stuff in school. It **needs** to be graphic in order to get the point across to them. Yeah, I get that *we* don't need that, but we aren't the general public. Of course, I'm weird and all in that I don't see anything wrong with the graphic stuff as long as it is done within context--and all of this is. But then again, I am someone who seeks out horror stuff and has a degree in Forensics, so I'm used to dead bodies and gore as are my kids. :)

***WAIT! I need to correct some misinformation here. It was NOT Donner's wife who gave birth! Go watch again. It was another member of the very large Donner party who gave birth and that family did NOT follow Donner into what is now called Donner's Pass. They went the other way with the rest of the group. It was ONLY Donner's family who went through the pass. Everyone else took the safe path, Donner was mistaken that the left path would be shorter and that's why they died, they were not prepared for the flash winter that occurred. Ok, it was Lewis Keseberg, a German immigrant, joined with his wife and daughter; a son was born on the trail. But Keseberg was one of the few who did NOT follow Donner.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donner_Party

btw, reading that link, you will learn that not only did the Keseberg Family survive, but the Donner children--all of them, did as well. It was only the Donner Adults who perished to cannibalism.

Wilma
09-30-2010, 06:47 PM
My kids didn't seem squeamish at all. It was me! They also had no problem with the Civil War battlefield hospital. I think I'm getting a weak stomach in my old age, LOL.

I didn't mean to imply that it was Donner. Sorry if I did.

bettyjeanmarino
09-30-2010, 07:48 PM
Well, I'm glad to hear someone defend the series and review it positively :)

GothicGyrl
09-30-2010, 09:49 PM
Well it does delve into WWII and you know what that deals with. Thankfully, there were no holocaust photos that I could see, being shown. I just finished the whole set and I have to say, I am very pleased with what I watched. :)