Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jim is on the road with about 150 students and a dozen colleagues on the so-called "Boston Trip," which is a misnomer, in that it's really a Massachusetts trip. We'll be making our first stop in Salem, to visit the exuberantly kitschy Salem Witch Museum, whose creaky mannequins seem themselves to be historical artifacts of a city's attempt to reinvent itself through tourism. From there, we'll tour sites such as the Salem Custom House (famously featured in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter), and the elegantly austere memorial to the victims of the witch trials of 1692. After a night in nearby Waltham, we will the proceed to Lexington and Concord, where we'll have a look at where the American Revolution began. While in Concord, we'll take a walk around Walden Pond, visiting the site as well as a replica of Henry David Thoreau's humble abode. We'll also visit the Old Manse, a storied home belonging to Ralph Waldo Emerson's family. Residents at the house included the newly wedded Hawthorne and his wife Sophia, who rented it in the 1840s. After lunch at Faneuil Hall, we'll take a ferry ride to Charlestown to visit the Bunker Hill monument, and then swing back into Boston proper, where if time permits, we'll see the site of the Boston Massacre and/or other sacred ground.

This is the tenth time Jim has made the trip. In previous years, the Boston/Concord core has been supplemented with Old Sturbridge Village and the Pequot Museum in southeastern Connecticut, but this is now the third iteration of the trip in which Salem has been the first leg, and our routine has been honed to a relatively high degree of efficiency. It's a nice experience for the kids, and one those who plan it would like to think it a rite of passage. Certainly there are few better ways to integrate history and literature into a compelling package (our reading in recent weeks has included The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, "Civil Disobedience," and the Declaration of Independence) and to fuse the life of the classroom with that of material culture and a departure from school routine. Such is the stuff of which memory -- personal and collective -- is made.