Editor’s Note: For President’s Day today we’re republishing this post from Leslie Loftis from last September, which asked a question worth pondering on a regular basis.
My children are back in school, and I am able to return to my school day routine of reading The Transom after my older set get on the bus and my twins get dressed and make their beds. Admittedly, I don’t always make it to the end of the newsletter in one sitting, but the end is the best part. After the wonky political and economic news summaries, The Transom has an interesting links section, a slightly more serious version of Debby Witt’s Odd Links at The Corner.
This gem recently greeted me: “In a Mass Knife Fight to the Death Between Every President, Who Would Win and Why?” Perhaps because I have an eight-year-old son who took to the discussion like a moth to a flame when I discussed it with his uncle and father over dinner, this struck me as a very promising history lesson plan… one that the PC/we-need-feminized-men guardians would never allow.
This is an excellent example of the type of discussion that would engage young boys (and old ones based on the comment threads) but send experts and some moms into frets of whether it promotes aggression. Boys can’t even talk about theoretical fighting. When the boys get bored, rather than face that boredom is one of aggression’s main fuel sources, we drug them and congratulate ourselves that the little girls are doing so well.
I will grant that a knife fight is a bit harsh for a school lesson, but the game is easily modified to a survival island scenario, like Christ White posted. Both posts and comments are chock full of intriguing — and highly memorable — assertions. Think of the research possibilities!
Which presidents were fighters? In which wars? Which presidents were delicate diplomats? Which presidents were both warriors and diplomats? What were their personalities, their philosophies? Alliances are allowed, so which ones would band together? Which ones would indulge a grudge? Against whom? The entries on Tyler and Polk alone have great research potential:
10) John Tyler – No one liked John Tyler, especially Team Jackson-Van Buren. Not only would he be hunted down, but he would have an unmemorable death unless Van Buren tries to go for style points. Five minutes into the scrap, people would ask each other, “Who was that again? Why is Jackson wearing his scalp as a beret?”
11) James Polk — I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. That man had some grit and gumption and more than his share ofcharacter. He said what he meant, and he did what he said. He will not be one of the early deaths, although I think the Top 10 escapes him for a simple lack of ambition. Promising to serve a single term and then following through on that promise? He doesn’t dream big enough to escape the knives of the Holy Trinity.
With vivid context like this, kids might actually remember Tyler and Polk, who are part of the Jackson to Roosevelt forgotten presidential chain because U.S. federalism had not yet been compromised and the U.S. had yet to be a world power, so the U.S. president was just a chief executive of a successful enterprise, a man of middling import. And that’s just the boring ones.
The tidbits about Teddy Roosevelt are educational gold:
If you had an hour in the Bronx Zoo with a Gatling gun you wouldn’t be able match the stuffed head collection in his house. Fiercely determined, he transformed from sickly youth into a brick outhouse, a man who boxed in the White House, ran up every staircase and hit friends with sticks for fun (singlesticks!). He picked fights with bigger opponents, in both politics and Dakota Territory bars, and he avenged defeats. Such was his jones for shooting Spaniards, he quit a government job to do it. The roughest men in a very rough era were proud to call him colonel. And if you need some X factors, he’s young, and he spent his adult life trying to impress his dead dad. That’s Disney-level motivation.
My 8th grade history teacher would have done this lesson back in the day. He wasn’t a stranger to fun and memorable lessons. He once entered our classroom the day after a substitute had taught and chewed us out over a fictional bad report. Then, he told us to teach ourselves the day’s lesson and left the room in convincing disgust. It was all to test us, to see who would lead, follow, and coast. I wonder how long the PC guardians let him use that lesson plan?
For the record, in the presidential thunderdome, I’d bet Jackson enters and leaves and that the “holy trinity” of Teddy, Jackson, and Lincoln is wrong. Lincoln won’t make it that far. Washington, a Green Beret type of his day, trumps Teddy Roosevelt, or leads Tyler to do it. Cool Cal of “let 9 of 10 problems solve themselves before they get to you,” stays until at least the top 5 by pulling a Katniss. Contrary to almost everyone else, I think Obama might stay to the end as well. In speeches he twisted the Chicago way to a gentler “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight,” but the actual instruction was to bring a gun to a knife fight.
Related: There is a Broadway musical about Jackson, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson. Apparently, it is a rock musical about the founding of the Democratic Party. How did I miss this?
Related at PJ Lifestyle: