13 June 2005

11. Idiot's Guide to the Vietnam War

Man, that was a complicated war. Lots of reasons, lots of sides, and lots of mistakes and misassumptions.

I read the book because I am teaching it to my 7th graders as the last unit of the year. We let them vote on what they wanted to learn about most, giving a ballot with 5 topics we thought we could teach reasonably well, and they chose Vietnam. I knew nothing about it beyond there were lots of sides, lots of mistakes and misassumptions, lots of reasons we got involved, and that it was complicated. I had virtually no idea what happened when, beyond what I learned in the movie theatres.

I know a lot more now, but feel that I could read the book again, or that there should be a sequel, with more detail and more primary sources. I need more information (new market: sequels to the Idiot's and Dummies Guides) and more detail.

I only chose this one to read because another teacher had a copy of it. I supplemented my knowledge with two pbs websites and a college curriculum I found online, and stayed one year above the kids. We also showed them the documentary about the Weather Underground.

Anyway. The writing style kind of annoyed me. At least three times every chapter the writer used the catch-phrase "but they were wrong." Fo example, "The VC thought the US would supply the South Vietnamese and advise them for a few years. But they were wrong." Another example, "LBJ figured the war would last two years and all he needed was a WW2 effort. He was wrong." And on and on. By the end of the book I started laughing when I saw them.

I recommend the book if you want to know a brief, light look at the war and what happened. I may look to see if they have a "Short History of the Vietnam War." I read the WW1 and WW2 books and found them to be worthwhile. The WW2 one is written by a dude named Stokesbury. A good name.

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