American Expat Explores the American Myth

A review of Jerome Stueart’s One Nation Under Gods in Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories.
By Derek Newman-Stille

Jerome Stueart, an American expat and current Canadian, explores the American myth in his One Nation Under Gods. Stueart creates a United States in which American concepts of patriotism are physically manifest in American gods. Gods like Lady Liberty, Strike, and Patriot demand a heavy toll for occupancy in the United States. They demand students to memorise American history, to tell and re-tell the stories of the American gods to keep them real and powerful. When students fail to remember American history, they are made ‘useful’ by being turned into buildings and structures of society, indicating the consumption of the uneducated by a corporate structure that turns them into the tools of society. They literally become stores, missiles, and other implements of American corporate society.

As a former American, Stueart offers a critique of his former home, questioning the social underpinnings of American society and questioning the absolute adherence to an American myth about a society that is immensely important and needs to be remembered above all others.

He questions education systems in general and the subjectivity of teaching: why are certain things taught and not others? Who determines what is important for children to learn and what will make them the decision-makers of the society of tomorrow. As an educator myself, I appreciate Stueart’s critique of education and the idea of teacher-directed rather than student-directed learning. His world is one in which the definition of certain types of knowledge as valuable and others as irrelevant (ignoring the incredible gifts of the children who are de-valued such as the ability to create incredible art) has meant that society has lost other important forms of knowledge.

This is a tale of student resistance to an enforced pedagogy, a challenging of the memorization and rote-learning system of education and the introduction of the important part of education: the need to question everything. Stueart reminds the reader that the most important part of education is that edge of speculation that fuels young minds with the question: why?

To explore this and other volumes of the Tesseracts books, visit the Edge website at http://www.edgewebsite.com/ . You can visit Jerome Stueart’s website at http://jeromestueart.com/ to see some of his work and find out what he is currently working on.

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5 thoughts on “American Expat Explores the American Myth

  1. Diane Tibert says:

    The school system. Hear my heavy sigh. I have three kids, one in each level of public school: elementary, junior and high school. I often wonder about why they are being taught one thing more than another. It makes me think hard and long about home-schooling. My oldest child will get by and excel in school because she gives them what they want. My middle child though is not a public speaker–why can’t the system understand that not everyone can or wants to do it–and he doesn’t like fiction (only non-fiction) which means the English Literature classes forced upon students in Nova Scotia high schools will be hell for him, resulting in poor English marks, but I don’t care. If he can read and write, that’s all English is supposed to teach. Who cares about Shakespeare? No, really? In the real work world where he’ll probably be a heavy-duty mechanic because that’s what he loves to do, will it matter if he can recite something from Willie? I don’t think so.

    I think school was a great idea, but we’ve warped it so much that I give it a failing grade. Perhaps Canadian schools are no better than those in United States or the United Kingdom. Personally, I think most schools are failing students. And don’t get me started on closing three schools to put all 1000 students into one.

  2. […] thrilled that Speculating Canada reviewed my short story, “One Nation Under Gods” which appeared in Te… It’s hard to get short fiction reviews and they are so valuable.  The SF/F/H community […]

  3. jstueart says:

    Derek, this JUST came out tonight in the New York Times. Thought it was appropriate. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/opinion/grading-schools-isnt-the-answer-its-the-problem.html?_r=0

  4. The article jstueart commented on is a good one. Roger from the blog Writing Is Hard Work is an American teacher and what he’s discussed in his blog is much the same as the arguments in the article. Teaching to the tests has resulted in kids being handed the answers and those kids will fail in the field of critical thinking. Standardized testing is creating a generation of kids who cannot think for themselves. It makes me fear for the future.

    • This is definitely something I am seeing in students who come to university. It often takes them a while before they are comfortable thinking for themselves. Every time I teach, I find that students begin the year expecting to receive “the answer” and it takes a few classes before they feel safe thinking for themselves and thinking outside the box. There is something fantastic that happens when a student asks a question and you reply with “Great question, what do you think?” and they realise that you really do value what they think and recognise that they have great insights.

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