History and Nature of North America

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Over the last few months we’ve watched loads of DVDs and read lots of books and articles about America and there are two DVDs I want to tell you about because they are simply brilliant.

The first, North America, is a nature programme about… You guessed it, North America. I’m going to make a statement about this program and I hope you can appreciate the gravity of it: I think this is the best nature program I have ever seen.

I am a BIG Attenborough fan and have watched a vast amount of other nature programmes by numerous producers from around the world and this one really is something special. You don’t have to have a particular interest in America to appreciate this programme. The filming is mind blowing, the narration is deliciously captivating and the whole experience is breath taking, thought provoking and enriching.

Since buying this back in August we have watched it over and over, when the disks are knackered I’ll buy another copy.

The second series is America: The Story of the US. We’ve only just finished this series and its not something we watched with the children, perhaps slightly older children would be okay, 10+ I’d say.

It’s concise and speedy but the history of America is not a long one so they have been able to cover a surprising amount in the 9 ¼ hours of this box set. From the first settlers to beyond the millennium this series provides an insight into the American people and culture which certainly Rob and I had been totally unaware of before…. It all makes sense now! The stereotypes, which lets face it are generally well earned are given clear and incredibly respectable roots! Indirectly it explains the American love of guns, apocalypse planning, obsession with freedom, fear of communism, reaction to terrorism, entrepreneurial culture, consumerism and disregard for global warming. And it makes all of those things look utterly reasonable!

The one element of American history not made to look in anyway reasonable is the racial division. This aspect of the programme at times makes for uncomfortable viewing and it was frequently paused for speculation and discussion. Neither of us have significant experience of racial division and honestly find the concept of racism hard to grasp in this day and age and I worry that I will not be able to sufficiently teach our children the importance of eliminating racism from the world. British parents and teachers can explain why Hitler was so evil and it’s easy because it wasn’t us… It was them. Slavery and segregation on the other hand are a little harder to approach… Why? Because it was us! In the same way they don’t do too much about the war in German schools and I doubt they teach about Pearl Harbour in Japan, white children across the globe are not being sufficiently taught about our previous atrocities.

This, brilliantly made, programme addresses it… And does it well. If you want a brief overview so you can teach your own children about acceptance and tolerance then this is a good place to start with an easy to digest overview of American history. It will challenge your own, (possibly sightly racist?) view of Americans people too and give you an insight into the world’s super power.

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