There were wonderful exceptions to be sure. I had a Nevada History teacher who would lavishly illustrate the chalkboard with a glimpse into the past -- in colored chalk no less. I can only imagine the hours of effort it took for her to create images that were overlooked by most of the students in the class. She was a hard grader, but an engaging teacher. She made John Fremont and the Donner Party vividly real for me.
Excepting this teacher -- and a couple of others -- I was lucky to come out of my early education with a love of reading. Seriously...have you read A Separate Peace?
Lucky...except for one thing. Role playing games existed and they fueled my reading passion. Thanks to the many creators of the role playing games of my youth, my interest in the exciting playground that is world history was kindled. I can thank people like Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Graeme Morris, and Greg Stafford for reminding me that the stories are what make history so exciting.
Today's young readers don't have something I didn't have. They have the internet and Ben Thompson's excellent Badass of the Week website.
At the site -- and in his two books -- Thompson does the world a huge favor. He makes history more than fun. He makes it hard core. His books and website are the DragonForce of history/mythology books. They are "metal." In short, he rocks.
Over the past few years Thompson has become my favorite historian. Will his work be lauded ages from now as the quintessential history texts? Will they become the text books of University Core Curriculum programs? No.
They will inspire readers -- at that most cynical and needed age...the teen years -- to become interested in history.
Thompson recently gave a Google Talk where he did a reading from each of his two books. He's unnecessarily nervous and self-deprecating.
Do yourself a couple of favors. Buy his books on Amazon and visit his website weekly.
His biographical sketches -- like this one about Wolf the Quarrelsome whom Ben mentions in the Talk -- are engaging. They also make for wonderful inspirational fare for D&D campaigns.
Here's hoping that Ben is able to get a TV deal out of this.