For many Americans, Colonial Williamsburg needs no introduction. Millions have heard the often-told story of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s, restoration of Virginia’s eighteenth century capital. Visitors from all over the world have strolled down its picturesque streets and admired its restored and reconstructed buildings standing behind neat picket fences. Many return again and again to sample its great collection of English and American decorative arts. They marvel at the handiwork of ingenious artisans who practice trades long thought forgotten. For over 80 years, Colonial Williamsburg has been telling America’s story. However, is there still relevance in learning about the past? Is teaching history important is history to America’s future generations?
At Colonial Williamsburg, we believe that the future can definitely learn from the past. We also believe that the study of history should be at the core of American education. Yet today, our children exhibit large, disturbing gaps in their knowledge of history. Our history is not a story of perfection. Americans, who read books about history, watch it on television, and visit history museums are very much aware of our diverse origins; they take great pride in our resilient ethnic and cultural traditions. Americans are also aware of our long cultural history of unequal treatment and our contentious political process. In spite of this fact, growing numbers of men and women are coming to realize that they believe-or want to believe-that “We the People” represents a shared experience that is greater than the sum of the nation’s many parts.
Discovering and learning from the past is absolutely relevant, and history is relevant only if is truth. In the search for a more coherent national narrative, including the part that Colonial Williamsburg can tell, we do not minimize minority rights, smooth over the reality of social conflict in American history, or de-emphasize the country’s extraordinary patchwork of unassimilated ethnic cultures and customs.
We are citizens with obligations to each other, to our country, and to our history. History is essential for good citizenship. Studying history helps us understand how recent, current, and prospective changes that affect the lives of citizens are emerging, or may emerge and what causes are involved. More important, studying history encourages habits of mind that are vital for responsible public behavior, whether as a national or community leader, an informed voter, a petitioner, or a simple observer.
At Colonial Williamsburg, we encourage our visitors to discover their roots through stories about ordinary people and everyday life skillfully told by diverse and knowledgeable interpreters. We can take inspiration from the fact that people much like us debated fundamental concepts of American democracy in this provincial capital on the edge of England’s empire. As teachers of popular history, our primary goal at Colonial Williamsburg is to show diverse audiences how debates about democracy in colonial times continue to influence debates about democracy today.
Our visitors bring knowledge and pride to their learning experience. Colonial Williamsburg’s mission is to teach history, democracy, and citizenship. We show thoughtful men, women, and children how America’s past is relevant to America’s present. Join us for Fall Homeschool Days September 7 thru 22, 2013. You are invited to engage in an ongoing dialogue. Be part of the story! For more information, visit us at www.colonialwilliamsburg.org or contact us at 800-228-8389.