BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Joy Hakim, "Freedom: A History of US" -- what`s it all about?
JOY HAKIM: (Author, "Freedom: A History of U.S."): Just as the title says, it`s about us, our story, our search for freedom, the American quest, American dream.
LAMB: When did all this start?
HAKIM: You mean the book?
LAMB: Yes. This book itself.
HAKIM: Well, I started with a 10-volume series for young readers, and that`s called "A History of US," and -- my passion is teaching, is reaching kids. And I think we`ve done a poor job of that, in telling our story. And we`re historically illiterate, as a nation. So those books are out there. Kids are reading them. Some adults are reading them. And out of that came a television series, and out of the television series came a need for a book for families, for older readers. And so that`s what the "Freedom" book is about.
LAMB: I must say, I`m drowning in information from you. Sitting here on the table is this -- and we`ll show it on the screen in just a second -- 10 volumes. Where did this come from?
HAKIM: Well, it started out -- I was just going to write a U.S. history for kids, and it was going to be one volume. And I have a writing style -- I tell stories. It`s a narrative history, and story telling takes a little more time than a straight recitation of facts. It`s kind of -- you know, you sit in a rocking chair and tell stories to kids, and you take your time. So the book started -- it just began to grow, and the one volume -- suddenly, I thought, Well, it`s going to be two volumes, and then four volumes. And it ended up as ten. And I worked it out with kids, actually, in classrooms. We decided that`s kind of an optimal size. They`re small books.
LAMB: I want to tell the audience all this along the side are my little markings to show things that are in the books themselves. What years in school do kids read these books?
HAKIM: My intention -- I focused on 10-year-olds, which is 5th grade, and that`s when we teach U.S. history, and that was my target audience. And I worked these out in classrooms, in 5th grades, and I actually paid 10-year-olds to be my editors. I gave them manuscripts. I gave them a code. I said, you know, Write B for boring in the manuscript if you -- every kid knows that word. And so it was 10-year-olds that I worked with.
The books actually are being used from 3rd grade -- they`re being used in a number of AP 11th grades. They`ve astonished me. But I came out of journalism, and you know, anybody who can read the newspaper can read these books.
LAMB: Where did you start your own education about history?
HAKIM: Well, I hated history, like most kids. It was dull in school. And I went to -- I grew up in Rutland, Vermont, and I kind of missed U.S. history, I think. Or at least, I don`t remember it very much. But when I got to college, I had a professor, David Donald, who`s a well known American history -- or a great Civil War scholar. And he taught something called "intellectual history," and I couldn`t imagine what was intellectual about history until I had Mr. Donald. And it was great, and that got me excited. And since then, I`ve delved into history.
LAMB: When did you start in journalism?
HAKIM: In elementary school, I think I started writing for the school newspaper, and I`ve always been involved with journalism in one way or another. I was a reporter for "The Virginian Pilot" in Norfolk, and I became the first woman to be an editorial writer. And so I spent years as a journalist.
LAMB: Where did you start to teach?
HAKIM: I got a master`s degree in education after -- I went to Smith College, and then afterwards, I got a master`s degree in education from Goucher. And my first job was a special teaching - special ed middle school students in Syracuse, New York. And then I taught in Omaha. I taught in Virginia Beach. And so I`ve had -- I have a limited attention span. I seem to have taught different ages, and I like that.
LAMB: Where do you live now?
HAKIM: We live -- we have a house in Virginia Beach and an apartment in Denver. We have grandchildren in Denver.
LAMB: So what did you do in these books for the students that had never been done before?
HAKIM: If you remember your school history books, they`re pretty dull. And most school history books are litanies of facts. The idea that history is considered dull is astonishing. I mean, history isn`t dull. History is stories. It`s adventures. It`s us. It`s a natural with kids, and that we`ve made it dull is just incredible. And so I`ve told stories. I`ve made this narrative. I`ve also -- the history -- the way we teach -- we need to radically change our school for the information age. But the way we`ve taught history is by making it a watered-down version of adult history, and kids are not watered-down adults. They`re a different breed of fish.
And I studied the educational psychologists. I thought a whole lot about it. I worked with kids. And I wrote for children, rather than adults. There`s an educational psychologist, Kieran Egan. He`s a Canadian. He`s at Simon Fraser University. And he talks about the stages that kids go through, and that from 4 to 8, they`re in the mythic stage. And that`s when they believe in giants, when they believe in a Santa Claus. You know, and that`s a wonderful time to teach classic mythology. And our social studies curricula in that stage, when kids want things larger than life, you know, they want giants.
You know, we teach them about the neighborhood grocer. We teach them about the fire -- I think it`s just dull. We`ve had something in our schools called "expanding horizons." You start with the neighborhood, and then you know, you grow to the city, and then the state, and then the world. It`s just -- it hasn`t worked, and that`s one of the reasons we don`t know history. So I just threw that out.
And anyway, after the mythic stage, after this 4-to-8, you go into something called the romantic stage, and that`s 8 to 14. And those are my victims. And that`s when you suddenly realize that maybe there aren`t giants, except for basketball players, and you`re -- but you don`t want to give up, you know -- you want heroes. And there are giants on the earth, and they are real, and they`re heroes. And those are the people that I`ve emphasized. And our standard history books don`t.
And so in -- well, in writing about the Civil War, instead of focusing on the horrors -- I bring those in, but I also -- you focus on the Harriet Tubman, the people who were giants -- you know, when you`re -- I mean, Ida B. Wells is a heroic figure. She wrote about lynching, I mean, and she risked her life. You know, most of the books focus on those -- the pictures of people hanging from trees. You know, I have those, but my emphasis is on heroes, which is what my kids want.
LAMB: I want to read a statement that you made on page 10 of your first book, in the introduction. You say, "I believe the United States of America is the most remarkable nation that has ever existed. No other nation in the history of the world has ever provided so much freedom, so much justice and so much opportunity to so many people. That is a big statement. You don`t have to agree with it," you`re telling the students. "Arguing with the book`s theme is OK."
HAKIM: Yes. The first class that -- I had this -- my manuscript out in seven cities before it was published. And I got feedback from kids. And the first teacher who used it was a little hostile to the whole idea of just using a manuscript -- no pictures, at that point, nothing. And she was completely won over by the reaction of her kids to that paragraph. They were just blown away. No one had ever told them that you didn`t have to agree with a book. I mean, they just -- you know, if it`s printed, it`s -- you know, it seems to be decreed from the heavens. And we know books make mistakes. And I keep telling kids that over and over again. History is fluid, you know? It`s not set in stone.
LAMB: What about this statement? Because if you read it -- you`ve got 2,073 pages in these 10 books, and if you read through this, you hear a lot of things about America that isn`t very pretty. But you say here, "I believe the United States is the most remarkable nation that`s ever existed."
HAKIM: I really believe that. I think we have a heritage that`s fantastic. We have great documents. We have this goal, liberty and justice for all. I mean, you know, we`re never going to get there, but it is a great goal. You know, we`re people, we`re not any different than people anywhere else. We`re not special people. But we do have this American dream. We don`t hear about the Chinese dream or the German dream. You know, we have -- but people all over the world know what you mean when you say the American dream. So yes, I`ll stick with that statement. I`ve had some static from it.
LAMB: You have had some static?
HAKIM: Oh, yes. I mean, some people accuse me of talking of American exceptionalism, and I don`t think -- we, as people, aren`t exceptional, but our goals are, I believe.
LAMB: Now, in the back, you almost always have a note from the author. What`s the purpose behind that?
HAKIM: I think that readers like something personal. They like -- and so those are just little comments in which the readers get to know me, and I talk a little bit about myself. And I get -- I have hundreds of letters from kids. I think that most textbooks don`t generate that. And you know, I write to them personally, and they answer back.
LAMB: One of the things on this page I wanted to ask you about -- it says, "or about the teachers and educators and friends who`ve encouraged me or about the people at the American Federation of Teachers and the Smithsonian Institution who believed in this project." Any concern that the union endorses this book?
HAKIM: No. I had some wonderful people who helped me. Al Shanker was one of them. When I got started, I didn`t have any money. He gave me some freelance writing jobs, and he just encouraged me. And the AFT has done that right along.
LAMB: What did the Smithsonian have to do with it?
HAKIM: The Smithsonian -- they were enormously helpful with information. And they were very excited about what I was doing, and they went over all the manuscript. They checked facts. They helped me get information. You know, I`ve had fabulous people helping me. I`m not competing with the academics. I don`t pretend to do that. I see myself as a pop writer. I want to get the word of history and the wonders of history out there. And then I hope that -- I -- general public writer -- and then I hope people will go on beyond what I`ve done and read the academics.
LAMB: I want to keep mentioning for folks that are watching that there are 10 books that cost roughly how much apiece?
HAKIM: I think the paperbacks are $14 or so. They`re much cheaper if you buy them in quantity for the classroom.
LAMB: Something like $100 if you buy all of them together one time?
HAKIM: Yes. Right.
LAMB: I`m moving back and forth between the single volume, and in the single volume, which is connected with the television show, the foreword has an endorsement, basically, from George W. Bush and from first lady Laura Bush. How`d you get that?
HAKIM: The TV producer. They introduced the TV show, and so the TV producer got that, and it`s very exciting.
LAMB: Is there anybody that doesn`t like this format or the way you teach history?
HAKIM: I`ve been banned in Chiefland, Florida, because some parent objected, and the superintendent of schools said that he didn`t want any books in schools that have opinions. All books have opinions, whether they`re -- you know, this is -- because I`m talking to my reader, it`s obvious that there`s a person behind it, but...
LAMB: How often do you give your opinion?
HAKIM: Not that often in the book, but there`s always a caveat with it that this is my opinion, you must read somebody else. I constantly tell kids that. But no, I work very hard to -- what I try and do is give varied opinions so that during the Revolutionary War, I have the British press describing a battle, and I have an American, you know, account of the same battle, and they`re quite different. I want kids to understand that history is opinion. It`s one side thinking about something versus another side. Just as today we often disagree -- you know, you and I can see the same event, maybe, and write about it from different perspectives.
LAMB: OK, the first of these books by Joy Hakim came out what year again?
HAKIM: In `93.
LAMB: And the last one was published when?
HAKIM: We just have a new edition, and it includes 9/11, so it just came out.
LAMB: You know, you go back to the original book, and you talk "About Me," meaning you, and you say that, "While this was going on, I got married to Sam," your husband. What`s he do?
HAKIM: He`s now retired. He was a businessman.
LAMB: And then you talk about you have three children, Ellen, Jeffrey and Daniel. And Ellen played some big role in all this.
HAKIM: Yes. Ellen was taught history in high school, and the teacher took the textbook and gave it to the kids backwards. I think the book was so dull, he was trying to do something different to liven it up. But you know, she didn`t learn any history. History is -- it builds on itself, and you can`t teach it that way. So I was horrified by the fact that she didn`t know any history when she graduated from high school. And that was part of what got me started.
LAMB: Now, where are Ellen and Jeffrey and Daniel today? And are they all interested in history?
HAKIM: I don`t want to put them on the spot! Ellen is in Denver, and that`s why we live there most of the year. And she`s a marketing whiz, and married to Todd Johnson, who`s a landscape architect, and they have two kids, Natalie and Sam, who are our grandchildren. Jeff is a professor at American University, a math professor, and married to Haya Berman, who`s a speech pathologist. And Danny, the youngest, is a New York Times reporter. He`s the Detroit bureau chief, and he just -- he and his wife, Liz, just had a new baby, our newest grandson, Casey.
LAMB: If you go to the second volume, and on page 109, there`s a chapter here, 29, on Ben Franklin. The reason I picked this out is because somewhere in one of these books, you say that Ben Franklin is your favorite American.
HAKIM: I don`t know if favorite is the word. No, I don`t think that`s the word, but ultimate kind of, in many ways, because he combined energy and a business sense and a dedication to what we`d call American values. He`s a great -- great American. Favorite maybe isn`t my word, but I`m intrigued with the guy.
LAMB: Do you find others -- when you teach in the classroom, the kids have favorites?
HAKIM: Yes. Well, I pulled out this character that most Americans don`t know, William Johnson, who was in the French and Indian War. And Johnson came to this country from Ireland, and as a poor boy, came to upstate New York and met his neighbors, who were Mohawk Indians, and learned the Mohawk language -- was adopted into a Mohawk tribe, became the richest American of his time, or maybe the second richest. He was kind of a William Gates, and controlled the fur trade.
And he lived in two worlds successfully. When he was an Indian, he dressed in Indian garb, he spoke Indian languages, and he was an Indian. And when he was an Englishman, he put on his English outfit, and he was a very rich Englishman. And he was a really decent human being. The English would not have won the French and Indian War without William Johnson. He was one of only two Americans ever knighted by the English, colonial Americans. A pretty terrific guy and written out of the history books because he broke the mores of his time. He married an Indian woman, and you know, he lived with Indians. So he`s kind of a favorite. Kids love him.
LAMB: They do -- you see it early in -- I mean, do you teach him early?
HAKIM: Yes. Yes. He`s in French and Indian War. He was a very successful general. He died in 1775. If he had not died, he might have competed with George Washington for generalship during the Revolution.
LAMB: Now, one of the other things you do is these little sidebars. Now, are these your responsibility, or are there...
HAKIM: Yes. Yes. I started out with notes, footnotes, and I had actually drawn a little foot with a note, and they were going to be at the bottom of each page. And the kids who were reading the manuscript before it was published were just so fascinated with those footnotes that they started growing and growing and took on a life of their own. And books are kind of interactive, the way -- you know, TV -- the Internet, computers are today. And it works with kids.
LAMB: This little note here says, "Do you use the expressed `I`m stumped` when you`re stuck about what to do or think? In the days when westbound wagons traveled terrible roads like this one, where tree stumps stuck out of the ground, if you hit a stump, you were in trouble: stumped." And there you have a picture of...
HAKIM: I do -- yes, I do a lot with words. And what makes me different from the traditional books for kids, the history books, is that -- they usually have limited vocabularies. Kids love big words. I mean, we all like big words. They`re empowering. You feel smart if you have a big word. So I use lots of big words, but I explain them.
LAMB: "Do you know why `buck` is another word for `dollar`? It`s because in the days of Daniel Boone and the long hunters, a buckskin was worth about a dollar. So the money was named for the deer that it bought."
HAKIM: Yes. I mean, the words have stories. Everything has stories -- you`ll remember things if you tie them to stories. So I -- and etymology is fun.
LAMB: Here`s the issue "From the Colonies to Country: 1735 to 1791." Why that title?
HAKIM: That was the time when we changed from a colonial nation into the United States.
LAMB: Now, did you -- as you wrote these books, were they published and then...
HAKIM: No. I had nine-and-a-half books finished before I got a publisher. It was crazy. I don`t know how I kept going, but somehow I did.
LAMB: Nine and -- before -- and now, how many publishers did you talk to?
HAKIM: Everybody. They all turned me down. You know, if there`s a publisher out there who didn`t turn me down, I offer my apologies for not giving them a chance. It just -- because they seem to break the mold. I mean, one publisher suggested that I make it sound more textbooky, you know...
LAMB: And why Oxford? Why would...
HAKIM: Well, at a certain point -- and these books were out -- I was testing them in classrooms, and I was getting this fabulous response, so I knew I had something, but I was kind of discouraged. And I ran into an old friend who`s a historian, Paul Nagle, and I was telling him my sad story, and he said, There`s a man in New York. If anyone can help you, it`s Byron Hollinshead. So I sent the manuscript to him. Byron had been president of Oxford and also of American Heritage. And he eventually took the -- he had a hard time, actually, getting it published, but he eventually took them to Oxford, and they had never published children`s books in this country before, and they were just getting started. And so the idea of a 10-book series appealed to them as a starter.
LAMB: Were they the first publisher to buy it, or did somebody else put it out earlier?
HAKIM: No. No. Oxford did.
LAMB: And you call them "OUP."
LAMB: Oxford University Publishing.
LAMB: Is there any irony here that...
HAKIM: That an English...
LAMB: ...a British company...
HAKIM: Well, actually, when I went to England and talked to some of the people at Oxford over there, they said they refer to the series as "The History of Them." So yes, I don`t know if there`s some irony there, but...
LAMB: And you`re calling it "A History of US."
HAKIM: "A History of US."
LAMB: I want to read this from chapter 30 of your third volume. And it -- just to show how you do it differently. "There just isn`t room in this book to tell you about the first submarine built in America or that it was tested during the American Revolutionary War. If you want to know about it, you have to find the story on your own. If you`ve been reading carefully, you`ll know the name of the inventor."
How often do you tell the reader, Hey, ain`t got room for you, go find it for yourself?
HAKIM: I do it all the time. I mean, we`re in the information age, the 21st century, and we want to get kids to do research. And I constantly tell them that this book is -- even though it`s 10 books, it`s still only the surface. There`s lots and lots more to do. I always tell teachers, you know, tell your kids that the author anguishes over all she had to leave out, so have your children write more chapters. And I want to get them out there researching and writing. I mean, that`s the goal.
LAMB: In the back of the book, again, the note from the author -- "Exact imaging" are the first two words up here.
HAKIM: "Exact imagining."
LAMB: I`m sorry! Exact imagining. I`m...
HAKIM: That`s OK.
LAMB: ... in the television business. What`s that mean?
HAKIM: That`s a definition of history. History is exact imagining. That isn`t my definition, but I go on to tell about it. And I think that`s a pretty nifty way to think about history, that it`s not dull facts, it`s interpretation. It`s exact, but it`s imaginative.
LAMB: Who would disagree with that?
HAKIM: I don`t know. Some of the textbook authors out there. I mean, we see history as something that`s dull and static, and once you have it, it`s finished. And it`s always -- it`s the imaginative look at -- you know, search and the interpretation that`s interesting.
LAMB: There`s a lot of talk also in the back of the books about mapping, cartography. And on this particular page, you say, "which brings me to a good word for you to know, gerrymandering."
LAMB: I know what it...
HAKIM: Yes. OK.
LAMB: You get it both ways.
HAKIM: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: Elbridge Gerry -- you go on to explain who he was, but the interesting thing here that I hadn`t seen before -- you say that, "Gilbert Stuart, the artist who painted George Washington again and again, noticed the shape of one newly created district, and being an artist, decorated it with wings and claws. It looked like a salamander. That animal combined with Gerry`s name made a new beast that was labeled a gerrymander." What`s the reason for all the reference in the back of these books to the maps?
HAKIM: Oh. I mean, you can`t understand history without knowing where you are. So again, geography is something that we`ve denied our kids. And you know, map-making is so interesting. And there`s so many stories that go with it and...
LAMB: Now, here`s a map, for instance, in the back -- and you see this in a lot of the -- is this in the back of all the books?
HAKIM: They`re slightly different, but yes. There`s a little atlas in the back of each book.
LAMB: And you show here the original 13 colonies, the original United States, the Louisiana Purchase, ceded by Mexico, 1845, the Oregon country. How hard is it to get kids to understand this?
HAKIM: I think you just give it to them again and again, and you -- just as we don`t teach the multiplication tables once, you give them maps of all kinds. And these books are just a start with map-making. Map-making is just so interesting. The more we can get kids to look at maps, to get a sense of place...
LAMB: You -- in this -- "The New Nation: 1789 to 1850" -- you talk about -- see if I can find it here. Lafayette is here, but you also talk about the fellow that took his name.
HAKIM: He -- the black...
LAMB: James Armistead Lafayette. Do you remember the story of that?
HAKIM: Yes. He was a slave who was a spy for the Americans, and after the war was freed and a pretty terrific guy. And what`s interesting about him is he was very bright, very engaging, and the British fell for his -- he went into the British camps and sold supplies to them and then came back and told the Americans what was going on. After the war, he was freed and given some land, and then he was a black man who hired slaves -- who bought slaves. And so he became a slave owner. And I think that a lot of people don`t understand that slavery was an economic issue. If you wanted to prosper, you had to have slaves in that Southern economy. And so there were some 12,000 slaves owned by free blacks at the time of the Civil War, a small number but still significant.
LAMB: You say, though, that when the Marquis de Lafayette came back for the big tour of the United States in 1824, these two hooked up?
HAKIM: Yes. They were big friends. It`s just wonderful. It`s a wonderful story. It`s kind of heart-warming.
LAMB: Now, where did you find something like that?
HAKIM: Oh, in history books. I mean, kids are always asking me where I found things. In books, kids. I go to the library all the time. And so I rely on the great historians. And all of my books were read in manuscript by top historians, by almost always -- with every book, more than one. James McPherson read the Civil War book and the Reconstruction book in manuscript. He pointed out some errors to me. I changed them. It`s just enormously important to me to have experts -- I mean, I come at this from a journalist`s point of view, and so I`m used to going to experts. I`m doing science books now, and I have some fabulous physicists who are reading my manuscript and are so helpful and...
LAMB: Who else had to read your -- or did read your history books?
HAKIM: James Axtell read the first one. I`m just trying to think...
LAMB: Paul Nagle do any of that?
HAKIM: No, I don`t think he did -- he`s really -- oh, Bernie Weisberger, who has written some grand-sweep histories, was very helpful. I had conservatives, liberals. We had the spectrum of people. And having Oxford as a publisher gave me access to some fine historians, and Byron -- a lot of people read it, and they didn`t agree, necessarily, which, you know, I had to deal with.
LAMB: Here`s Robert Carter III, and the reason I picked him was because of the golden rule.
HAKIM: Yes. I like that story.
LAMB: And you have a -- here on page 145 of your -- let`s see, this is 1789 -- the golden rule. What`s the story?
HAKIM: Well, it`s -- first of all, kids need to know what the golden rule is. Everyone used to know that, but they don`t -- but he was a really interesting guy, part of the Carter family, the richest Virginia family, an enormously wealthy man when Jefferson was broke, he went to Carter for a loan, so -- this man who had many plantations. He freed all of his slaves. That was just an unbelievable act. His kids wanted nothing to do with him. I mean, he enraged everyone, but he had the courage to free his slaves out of conviction. He was very religious. He was searching for meaning in life. He actually tried several religions. Interesting guy and interesting issues for kids to grapple with. I mean, we assume that kids can`t talk about profound things, and they can.
LAMB: Then you get into some presidents. And then you use another technique, where you say, "The first seven presidents are easy, but how are you going to remember presidents 8 through 15? These are your choices. One, forget them. Worst choice. Two, say them over and over. OK choice. Three, find a memory system and remember them easily. Best choice."
What is a memory system?
HAKIM: These mnemonic devices, where you get a sentence where the first letter tells you the name of a president, or whatever you want to remember.
LAMB: So in this case, in order to remember Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan, you have the sentence, "Very heavy tennis players throw fast purple balls."
HAKIM: Right. Now, I`m trying to help kids any way I can.
LAMB: Does it work?
HAKIM: It doesn`t work terribly well for me but it seems to work for others.
LAMB: And here is a silhouette game, kind of, and the audience ought to try -- and get a close-up of that, see whether or not they could figure out from the silhouette who these presidents are. Can we move that over? Yes. Get a little closer to it there. How often do you do things like this?
HAKIM: We just have lots of gimmicks and fun things for kids and even some riddles and I had a hard time. I mean books have a lot of humor and that`s missing from textbooks and getting publishers to appreciate that kids have a love - love jokes, love games, should seem obvious.
LAMB: I did OK on this except for one. I got Martin Van Buren and John Tyler and John Quincy Adams but this was the stumper.
HAKIM: I don`t even know who that is really.
LAMB: It`s William Henry Harrison.
HAKIM: Oh, OK.
LAMB: He wasn`t around very long.
HAKIM: Yes, he`s not one of the great - he`s on the list.
LAMB: Do the kids, I don`t know if you should call them kids or not, but do the young people that use these books, do they end up having a favorite president?
HAKIM: Oh, they all - first of all, they all want to know who my favorite president is. I hope they do.
LAMB: What do you tell them?
HAKIM: I guess Abraham Lincoln. It`s hard to get immersed in U.S. history and not love Lincoln.
LAMB: What is it that you like about Lincoln?
HAKIM: I love the fact that he grew so much, that he was, you know, a person who just had a wonderful mind and asked questions and was thoughtful and cared about people and issues and he was pretty wonderful.
LAMB: This painting got my attention in one of your further books. It`s a Samuel F. B. Morse painting and you point out in here - first you ask people to find the Mona Lisa. I don`t know if our camera can get close but the Mona Lisa is right there. And then you say this is Morris himself. Who was he? What is this painting, and what do you try to teach with this?
HAKIM: Well, you`d be surprised how many kids don`t even know what the Mona Lisa is and, you know, I think we need to become generalists. We need to have rich - we need to have our kids have rich backgrounds and ask questions and go on beyond. Samuel F. B. Morse was an inventor besides being an artist. He was just really a renaissance man, interesting guy.
LAMB: Can you tell the story of Nakahama Manjiro? Do you remember that one?
LAMB: A Japanese boy in America?
HAKIM: Yes, he was the - he wanted to go back to - he had Japanese ancestry and he got on a - no, wait a minute. There are two stories there. He`s the guy that got shipwrecked and was picked up by an American whaling ship, taken to New England, became eventually a sailor and a captain and it`s pretty interesting.
LAMB: A lot of what I saw in the books I`d seen for the first time. Do you get that comment a lot?
HAKIM: I get it and I even get it from a lot of professional historians because I go for quirky things. I go for, you know, I have a main story that I have to tell obviously, you know, can`t leave out George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
But, the quirky things that appeal to me and usually have a deeper meaning. It`s over and again I`m impressed with how many ordinary Americans make a difference.
LAMB: All right, here`s - let me see which book this is. This is 1855 to 1865. Breaking the law, a discussion of ethics, what are you trying to get at here?
HAKIM: I`m trying to get into deep conversations with kids. I want them to think about ethical issues, you know. History is a whole lot more than facts. If it`s just facts forget it, but it`s consideration of, you know, real issues. I do two pages on lying and presidential lying and in the name of national security, in the name of covering up for some behavior.
There isn`t a kid who hasn`t struggled with the issue of lying, of telling a fib, and I want them to talk about it, you know, and ethics. You know one teacher told me that she spends a week on ethics using that as a starting point.
LAMB: When kids use these books in the classroom, how much of it do they read for each class, do you know?
HAKIM: I don`t. You know, they`re very flexible because they`re different books and they`re used differently. One of the things that kind of disturbs me, I mean I`m happy, you know, if you want my books use them any way that you want. That`s a few.
But a find a lot of teachers extract chapters and will take a book and maybe read three or four chapters from the book and pull them out of context and our kids - we have a literacy problem in this country, and when we talk about literacy and we talk about teaching reading, we usually talk about fiction and non-fiction is the reading form of our time.
It`s, you know, the information age and reading - you read non-fiction very differently than you read fiction. I read with a pencil and we need to teach that and we don`t in most of our schools. And, the idea that these are whole books and that you start at the beginning and, you know, read, and that one chapter builds on another escapes a lot of teachers.
And so, there`s a lot of teachers, they`re teaching a unit on immigration, they`ll pull out chapters or paragraphs on immigration. That bothers me.
LAMB: I want to go back to your breaking the law discussion of ethics because you do something in here that you see periodically but not in most history books. You say, "I have an answer to this dilemma of the evil law but before I tell you my thoughts, come up with the answers of your own. Then see if we agree. You are entitled to your own opinion. OK, here`s my opinion."
LAMB: And you say government under law is the only reasonable form of government in our complex world so it is important that citizens respect the law. You go on to say but suppose the unjust law doesn`t get changed, then sometimes for some people the best course is to break the law.
LAMB: Explain that.
HAKIM: Well, Martin Luther King is certainly a prime example of that, a man who believed in issues, believed that segregation was wrong, and where there were laws that enforced segregation he decided to break those laws but he was very conscious of the fact that he was breaking the law and that he had to pay a penalty which meant going to jail, which he did.
We have other - Thoreau did that, went to jail, rather than pay taxes to support the Mexican war which he didn`t believe in. That takes a lot of courage. I think the whole idea of passive resistance kids have to understand that it takes more courage to quietly resist a law than to, you know, hit out with punches or, you know, guns or whatever.
LAMB: On the back flaps of all these books, there`s something. What would you call this?
HAKIM: In the end pages?
LAMB: Just the end pages?
LAMB: But there`s a lot of information on those end pages.
LAMB: And this is one, the economies of the north and south circa 1860 and, if we can get in closer here on this, down this whole row you compare the Union with the Confederate and everything from the population where you show that the Union was two and a half times larger than the Confederates, free male population age 18 to 60 years old. It was 4.4 to one; free men in military service, 44 percent in the north, 90 percent in the south; wealth produced three to one in favor of the north; railroad mileage 2.4 to one.
There isn`t a category here that I can remember that the south wasn`t really behind the north. So, what do you learn from that? What do the young people learn from this? What do we adults learn from this?
HAKIM: You know you can be behind and win a war and the south maybe should have won the war. If you look at the Revolution, I mean we were behind England in everything but we believed in our cause and we won. The Vietnam War is the same thing. I mean little Vietnam was certainly - couldn`t compare to, you know, the great American nation and yet they won the war and those statistics are just interesting. I mean they provoke discussion.
LAMB: Here is "Reconstructing America 1865 to 1890." This is another issue and inside here you have "Law and the Ladies".
HAKIM: Yes, I like that one.
LAMB: What`s it about?
HAKIM: The laws were against women in the - particularly in the 19th century and for half of the 20th century, and I tell the story of some women who went ahead and did their own thing.
Belva Lockwood who went to law school and then couldn`t practice and wrote a letter to the president, Ulysses Grant, and said, you know - he was head of the National University in Washington, which doesn`t exist anymore, and she said if you`re at the head of this university then you`ve got to allow me to have a law degree and practice, if you`re not take your name of the letterhead.
LAMB: This particular section starts with "Myra Colby Bradwell passed the Illinois Bar Exam. That meant she knew everything a lawyer was required to know but it was 1869 and the Illinois Supreme Court said she could not practice law for one reason. It thought important she was a woman."
Bradwell took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. That court agreed with Illinois declaring quote: "The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign officers of wife and mother. This is the law of the creator." That is from the U.S. Supreme Court?
HAKIM: Yes, and actually in the later books you`re going to find stuff like that in the 1950s, they are still writing stuff like that.
LAMB: Did you know this before you got into the study of all this?
HAKIM: No. Part of, I think, what I do is because it`s so exciting. There`s a "gee whiz" quality in these books and it`s because I was discovering things and the more you get into a subject the more you`re inclined to think everybody knows that and I like writing about things that I don`t know a whole lot about, you know, discovering and then vicariously passing that on to my readers.
LAMB: Same book on page 176, you say: "Here is a personal confession. I have fallen in love with George Washington Carver."
HAKIM: Yes. I mean I share my passions.
LAMB: But then you go on and say, "So I`m a bit annoyed. There isn`t room for a chapter about him, but this book is long enough. Maybe it`s for the best. Now you`ll have to find out about him on your own."
HAKIM: The more - the best way to learn is to do it for yourself and so the more I can provoke kids to go on themselves. By the way, these books have spawned some absolutely fabulous teaching materials which were done independently at Johns Hopkins University, something called the Talent Development Team there.
It was using the books in at-risk schools and they have done 650 pages per book of teaching materials. Some of that is available. The rest of it is coming out from Oxford and it`s just incredible stuff.
LAMB: Is all this available through Oxford Publishing?
HAKIM: Through Oxford, yes, and there`s also a teaching - a Web site which goes with the freedom book but applies to the other books also and that you can just download it through PBS and then you put in "Freedom History of US" and it`s fabulous teaching materials.
LAMB: How often do you have adults tell you that they`re reading your books?
HAKIM: A lot of adults read it and it`s sort of a quick read in American history and it`s a good - I mean I`m writing for newcomers to U.S. history or those who`ve forgotten and want to start and then you can go on to Joseph Ellis or David McCullough.
LAMB: I want to go to 192, a page in this particular volume, where you talk about linkage, seeing the links between them helps you see a better picture, and you`re talking about a woman named Frances Gage because she played a very - she played a link role and you can explain that with Sojourner Truth, and you say so often we don`t hear about people like Frances Gage.
HAKIM: Yes, Fannie Gage, Aunt Fannie they called her. She was a very important woman in her time and she`s just interesting.
LAMB: She introduced Sojourner Truth you say to…
HAKIM: Yes, she was head at a conference where Sojourner - the famous conference where Sojourner Truth got up and said "Ain`t I a woman." She was in charge and she was kind of an important force in her time, knew everybody in the women`s movement.
LAMB: By the way, how many of these have sold, the set?
HAKIM: Four million books have sold.
LAMB: Individual books?
HAKIM: Individual books.
LAMB: These small books. How about the big one, how is that doing, the freedom book?
HAKIM: I don`t know. That hasn`t been out long. They haven`t told me yet.
LAMB: And do you know how many -- who will buy the set, the whole set, at one time?
HAKIM: I don`t. I don`t. A lot of school systems use five books in one grade and then five but like my favorite is in Virginia they`ll use five books in fifth grade and five books in sixth grade, so it`s a two year sequence. We used to teach, try and teach U.S. history all in one year and what happens is nobody gets through it and more and more schools are -- states are going to a two year sequence which makes sense.
LAMB: Is there a place, part of the United States that uses these more than others?
HAKIM: It seems to be mostly, they`ve sold through word of mouth and so there are clusters.
LAMB: Where are those clusters?
HAKIM: Well, Michigan. I think there are a lot of people in California, the East Coast. It seems I have a lot of fans.
LAMB: Any aversion to any of this in the south?
HAKIM: I don`t think so. I mean well, they say a Florida town has banned me, but not as far as I know.
LAMB: All right in the volume "1880 to 1917" there was a map that got my attention.
LAMB: I mean it just seemed to be very instructive and this is immigration and for 100 years from 1820 to 1920, and what you show on here is how many people from what countries immigrated to the United States and you can start here by saying, "Russia had 3,250,000 that came to the United States in those years. Two million of them were Jews."
LAMB: Now, you have a - there`s a Jewish background and an immigrant background, and you talk about this in your books. You tell us the story about…
HAKIM: My grandfather, yes.
LAMB: Talk about your family and where did they come from in the world?
HAKIM: Well, my grandfather was an orphan in Russia and very, very poor, even by immigrant Jewish standards. I mean he had no parents and he at 19, leaving behind a wife and baby, left Russia, came to New York, got on a barge going up the Hudson River and shoveling coal.
I think he probably had muscles, and he got off at Troy, New York and started walking and ended up in Glens Falls and became a peddler, and eventually a very prominent citizen. He was illiterate and I didn`t find that out. He was very, very successful.
He owned a lot of businesses and he did very well, was a leading citizen, but he never learned to read and write. He had never learned in Europe. I didn`t find that out until after my mother died. He`s kind of a family hero.
LAMB: Were you -- I say, were your surprised? I was surprised to learn that 3,250,000, that`s the biggest number in that 100 years, the biggest number from any one place except for Germany.
HAKIM: That was the biggest.
LAMB: That came to the United States. Austria/Hungary had three million or so and we`ll show you that in just a moment. Were you surprised that so many came?
HAKIM: I think so, yes.
LAMB: Then you have the inset here, the numbers in Europe primarily, actually there`s a couple bigger numbers. You had the Irish, you had 4,400,000. You had 2,500,000 from England. You had 3,700,000 from Austria/Hungary, and then you show 130,000 from Spain.
HAKIM: It`s interesting also and I talk about that in the books to know why they came. I mean there were, you know, the potato famine brought the Irish and a famine brought a lot of the Italians and particularly in Sicily. I have a chapter -- I have a couple pages on Sicily and why people left there.
Or, you find times of persecution. Germany had a freedom revolution that failed and a lot of people fled. I mean there are reasons for immigration and, of course, the map right now with the recent immigration would be totally different.
LAMB: Chapter 8 of this book, presidents again.
LAMB: This first line: "Notice: This chapter may be boring." Why do you say that?
HAKIM: Well, when you have to learn a list of presidents or a list of states, it`s boring, so you know I…
LAMB: Well, you say, however, you said "Now there is something you can do about it. You can skip it. However, beware some of the information in this chapter is important so if you skip it you do it at your own risk."
HAKIM: You might not get a good grade on a test kids. You better learn these presidents like it or not.
LAMB: Let`s see what else I can find here. Then you go back to your family. Here I found at the end you show Isaac Ginsburg in the back. When you go around how often do you find kids interested in your own background?
HAKIM: I find them - I haven`t gotten much. I find adults were more interested in that. For some reason I haven`t had kids. I tell them my middle name in the beginning of the book and several kids, you know, have commented on that. They feel like they know something that everybody…
LAMB: And your middle name is?
HAKIM: Natalie, which is my granddaughter`s name. Somehow they like to ask me about that but they don`t ask me about my grandfather.
LAMB: All right here is a very strong statement on your part. "Great leaders have the ability to inspire people. They can make people do what they wish them to do. Woodrow Wilson was a great leader."
HAKIM: There are different theories of history and some people think that leadership is what makes the difference. Others don`t go with that theory. The more I read history, the more I think leaders make all the difference in the world.
LAMB: And you don`t shy away from telling people who you think were great leaders.
HAKIM: Right, right, but I constantly say, you know, you don`t have to agree with me kids.
LAMB: Who was a bad leader? Do you say that?
HAKIM: Well, I mean, Harding. I don`t know. Yes, sure, that list of presidents is very frank.
LAMB: Here`s another note from an author from another one of your books. We`re getting near the end of all the books.
LAMB: And you`re talking about the bomb and you say, "Wisdom and foolishness in modern times, you bet, and sometimes it was hard to tell them apart. Should the bomb have been dropped? The answer was obvious, of course not. It was outrageous and barbaric to bomb children and other civilians with any kind of bomb. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the terrible outcome of a misguided idea."
Then you jump down and it says, "But there was another question that had to be asked. What would you have done if you were Harry Truman, if you had a weapon that would end the war quickly and save lives on both sides? Would you have used it? Of course you would. In 1945, hardly anyone even thought of hesitating."
HAKIM: Yes. I think what schools do and I really think we need to get away from this is teach children that there`s one correct answer to every question and that`s just not true, and the interesting questions have multiple answers and are difficult.
You know, that decision to drop the bomb was wrenching. It was - and we`re going to argue it forever on whether it should be done and we just can`t have a pat answer. We need to examine the issues and struggle with them and that`s what I try and get kids to understand.
LAMB: The hardback book of all this is this book called "Freedom: A History of US." When did you do this? When did you actually write this?
HAKIM: I wrote that last year fairly quickly. That`s an adult version. It`s - I`m hoping it will be used in high schools. It`s for families and that goes with the television series. It has 16 parts just as the television series had 16 parts. It`s a little more sophisticated. It gets away from the tone that I use in the "History of US."
LAMB: In what way does it get away from the tone?
HAKIM: Well there is a certain parental or, you know, where I`m telling kids this is what I think. This is what you, you know, that you use when you talk to kids. This is much more like an adult book.
LAMB: How did the television series come to pass and this book?
HAKIM: Peter Kunhardt, who`s the producer of the television series, found the original history books and decided he wanted to do a series based on that, and then when you have a television series you need a companion book so that`s how this book evolved. And, also, we`d had a lot of requests for one volume, a one volume "History of US" so that`s what this is.
LAMB: One of the stories in this book that got my attention is also in the other book is the strange case of the Chinese laundry in San Francisco.
HAKIM: Yick Wo
LAMB: What`s the story?
HAKIM: Yick Wo was a Chinese - right after the - during the Gold Rush, you know, a lot of men came out to San Francisco without any women. They needed to have their clothes washed and so there were a lot of laundries that came up.
It was a jerry-built town. The laundries were in wooden buildings. They used fire and you didn`t want fires in San Francisco. So, a law was passed saying no laundries in wooden buildings, but it was only enforced -- the only laundries that were closed down were Chinese laundries. And so, the Chinese protested and went to court and said that they shouldn`t be treated any differently than anyone else.
There was another issue. The Chinese weren`t citizens because they couldn`t be. According to law they couldn`t be citizens. We had discriminatory laws and it went all the way to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court in a really important case said that aliens have the same rights as American citizens and should be treated the same way. And this is a case that`s used as precedent now for the Mexicans coming over. They have the same legal rights as aliens as American citizens.
LAMB: And, as you know, the closer you get to the present time, the stronger views are from a lot of people.
LAMB: And let me just read what you say about Bill Clinton.
LAMB: You say, "Bill Clinton turns out to be the most conservative Democratic president since Grover Cleland. He cuts welfare, puts more police on the streets, builds prisons, steps up the war on drugs, expands the death penalty, and after a passage of deficit reduction bill with no Republican support balances the budget." Did you choose words like that when you`re writing about present time carefully?
HAKIM: I do.
HAKIM: Nobody seems to care a whole lot about what happened 100 years ago. When you get into the current, you know, recent presidents they do care.
LAMB: But you then wrote later on, "Yet Clinton`s presidency, begun with promise turns into a political and national disaster. He is investigated by a special prosecutor. He lies about his personal behavior and in 1998 is impeached in the House of Representatives and tried in the Senate where he is found not guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.
But the entire process, which focuses on his relationship with a young woman who worked as an intern in the White House, is intensely partisan, expensive, distracting, and humiliating for the entire country." How long did it take you to write that paragraph?
HAKIM: You know I did a lot of thinking about that.
LAMB: Were you walking a fine line or, you know, I mean...
HAKIM: Yes, I mean.
LAMB: Did you have personal strong feelings about Bill Clinton one way or the other?
HAKIM: I think that I was enormously disappointed in what, you know, this is a man with such potential who mucked up big time and we all paid a price for it and how terrible. That`s disgraceful.
LAMB: In the end, what are your - do you have strong political views yourself?
HAKIM: I try very hard to - I guess most people do. I think we need conservatism and we need liberalism and I try not to knee-jerk anything. Writing editorials for a newspaper made me think carefully about my opinions.
Lots of ideas that I had when I was speaking to friends, when I had to actually justify them on paper I suppose I became more conservative than I thought I was. But I certainly have - I`d like to think that I combine the best or well I like to combine liberalism and conservatism, and I think that an imbalance is not good for our country. When you talk about the "L" word as if it`s something evil, it`s nonsense.
LAMB: So, how do you do all this?
HAKIM: What do you mean?
LAMB: I mean there`s 2,073 pages that you wrote plus this hardback here. I mean are you a fast writer?
HAKIM: I`m fairly efficient I guess and...
LAMB: Where do you write it? Where did you write all this?
HAKIM: I sat down - I write every day from nine o`clock until noon. It`s amazing if you write every day. You know I have a schedule and I`m - right now I`ve got three books on science written that I`m anxious to get out there and we don`t know the science.
I mean science underlies our times, all the goodies that you and I enjoy - the computers and the fax machines. It`s quantum theory. Most people don`t know what that is and how it came about and then the personalities that brought it to us and that`s fun. So, yes, I just satisfy my curiosity in writing.
LAMB: And you say you`re not a historian and you approach this as a journalist.
LAMB: Again, what`s the difference?
HAKIM: I think it`s - I see a journalist as a snoop, a questioner, somebody who wants to learn. And, the 20th century was a time of specialization and journalists dive into any subject.
As a journalist, you know, I`ve written about all kinds of things and you have to learn and you have to learn to look for experts and to ask the right questions and that`s what I attempt to do and that`s what our kids need to do. And, I think - and our teachers too many of them are afraid of subjects. I`ve had teachers come up to me and say oh, I`m really scared of teaching history because I don`t know any history. I said that`s OK. Learn it with your kids. We need to be open to learning.
LAMB: So, where are we in this country when it comes to kids learning history compared to what it was 50 years ago?
HAKIM: Fifty years ago history was central to the curriculum. It`s very much peripheral now and it needs to be central. First of all, it`s a great mother discipline. Everything is history. Everything that happened yesterday and before is history so it`s a way to tie curricula together, art, music, poetry, baseball, everything is history and you can make the links and it`s connections that make learning exciting.
So, we need to really concentrate on history as a way to teach reading, thinking. I mean history gives you ideas to think about. We`ve neglected it at our peril, besides the idea that as citizens if we don`t know who we are we can`t be effective citizens.
LAMB: Our guest is the author of this ten-volume series. It looks like this book right here called "A History of US" and also this hardback which you can find in your bookstores called "Freedom: A History of US" a one-volume series, a companion to the PBS program that has been airing the first part of the year on your PBS stations. Our guest has been Joy Hakim and we thank you very much for joining us.
HAKIM: Thank you for having me.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2003. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.