President Trump has stated, actually read, or if you accept his account misread, that the Continental Army “took over the airports” from the British Army during the American Revolutionary War.
This statement should keep cartoonists, comedians and letter writers busy for a long time, but what are the real concerns about this “misspeak”? First, anyone can misread something but generally they realize their obvious error and say so without elaborate explanations, although it could have been there on the teleprompter. If it was there, then no professional speech writer was involved although the complexity of some of the language suggests someone else wrote it.
This is not a matter of fake news, or one of the now over 10,000 “false or misleading” claims that the Washington Post newspaper has counted. This is just plain stupid news. The real issue with this single item is the number of people who won’t know the difference since although people claim great pride in their history, they actually know little of it and less of a timeline of when events happened.
As a science teacher I had an activity where I gave students a jumbled list of inventions and dates and swiftly found that few students had any idea of the progression of human discoveries. Although they were young, they did not know of a pre-internet time nor could they comprehend what it was like, and as for black-and-white TV, this was almost inconceivable even though soon TV may be a forgotten memory as will newspapers for all.
History teachers should be starting their own revolution, rather than telling of previous ones and breaking the internet to establish what has happened, when, where and what the consequences were then and now. There is also the view of Edmund Burke, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” It is difficult to see what will happen with fake news stories and now stupid news stories and how they will be remembered in the future.
The next challenge for history is to properly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and convince the doubters that it did actually happen. Don’t worry about planting the American flag on Mars, Mr. President, when there is so much to be done on protecting this planet and its fragile environment as well as the people on it, including the number who want to get into America, not just American cells.
Learn what happened and tell the truth always. It shouldn’t be that hard to do.