Skip the cookie cutter lesson plans

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There were some comments regarding the quiz in last week’s article. One person said they didn’t get any of the 10 questions correct. Another said they only answered four correctly with the others just guesses.

And that was exactly my point for presenting that quiz last week. A lot of people aren’t going to be aware of the answers to these questions because they just aren’t taught, but should be common knowledge to all of us.

I’ll admit, the Portal question would have been tough for most people, but the rest should not be.

Four of the questions were related to Canada in some way. North Dakota is so intertwined with Canada yet most people aren’t even aware of it. I also write a column for the Hazelton Newsletter, where I grew up. There are a number of people who settled that community in 1903 and beyond who came from Montreal and other parts of Quebec. I’m trying to trace some of that down to point out that probably half of us who grew up there have Canadian roots.

Just about everyone there believes they have a German background and many do. But not everyone does. For instance, one parent was a German immigrant and the other Canadian. One parent might have been British and the other German and so on. So, in a way, they’re not wrong, it’s just that they’re half right.

Germans from Russia came here, Norwegians came here, some Russians settled here and so did some people from Denmark. But so did many from Canada. And I guess I didn’t know this until I started working in Langdon. I found out that even now, numerous North Dakotans, especially on the nothern tier of the state, are married to Canadians. Two of the vendors at our farmers’ market are Canadian; one from Saskatchewan and one from Manitoba.

I’ll bet if you stop somebody on the street in Carrington or Jamestown and ask them if they know where Weyburn is, they probably won’t know. Yet, nearly all the semis that go through Carrington and link up to Interstate 94 at Jamestown that have Canadian license plates, pass through Weyburn, which is in southern Saskatchewan roughly 30 miles from the Portal port of entry.

Some years ago, I found a spring about a mile from the Canadian border in Rolette County that at one time was considered Holy Water, by Father Bellecourt, a priest who came from Canada and who the town of Belcourt is named after. I don’t remember the entire story, but I wanted to find it, and I did, after a four-mile hike through the bush, so that I could photograph it.

Everyone in Carrington and Sysketon are aware of Travis Hafner. But does everyone else in North Dakota know who this guy is, even if you aren’t a baseball fan? Do people in Crosby or Bowman know who Darin Erstad is? And here’s another baseball trivia question. John Olerud, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays, has a North Dakota connection. Does anyone know what it is?

I think what part of the issue is, is that when we are in high school and college, we are all taught exactly the same things. It’s like a cookie cutter education. George Washington, check; Washington, D.C., is the nation’s capital, check; North Dakota became a state in 1889, check; the largest lake in North Dakota is Sakakawea, check; etc.

Teachers and professors should be strongly encouraged to go off that script and teach some of these interesting things that many of us know nothing about. It would take some research and I’m pretty sure there are lot of educators who don’t want to go there.

We all know about wheat and canola and the oil industry. But do we know that once upon a time, since statehood, thousands of cherry trees were producing fruit in this state? What happened to those orchards?

It’s pretty obvious to us that North Dakota is a major honey producer. The state Ag Department keeps us up to speed on that. But, does anyone know that there are people in North Dakota, using North Dakota trees, to produce maple syrup? We have a vendor at our farmers’ market who does just that. And classes are taught on how to make syrup at Cross Ranch.

I could go on and on; Margaret Thatcher has visited Fargo, Randy Bachman of Guess Who and BTO fame, played an impromptu concert in a Fargo bar, Bryan Adams got booed at the North Dakota State Fair for pronouncing Minot wrong. And, Minot has 14 radio stations, yet it was Estevan station CKSE-FM that introduced Adams to the Minot concert crowd.
North Dakota is full of quirky facts like this and obscure histories that more of us should know about. Perhaps there will be more next week.

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