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“It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.”

– President George Washington to Marquis de Lafayette, November 15, 1781

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here, here, and here on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on:

Celebrating American Boats, Ships, & Their Captains.

“Don’t give up the ship,” were the famous dying words of Commander James Lawrence in 1813 aboard the USS Chesapeake during the War of 1812. From Native American canoes to the Mayflower, slave ships, the USS Constitution, Lewis and Clark’s keelboat, Mississippi River boats, the Civil War ironclads, the Great White Fleet, aircraft carriers, and the nuclear navy, on the high seas and rivers and lakes – boats, ships, and their leaders have shaped and defined our country. After all, we’re a country with a total of 95,471 miles of shoreline living on a planet that’s 71 percent water. So naturally, since antiquity, people have known that sea power is central to the human experience and national strength.

The United States has produced a variety of talented and accomplished sailors, privateers, sea captains, commodores, and admirals, who have led the country to its current, unchallenged naval superiority. These titans of the high seas include: John Paul Jones, Stephen Decatur, Isaac Hull, Matthew Perry, David Farragut, George Dewey, Chester Nimitz, and Hyman Rickover.

Citizens and schoolchildren alike should know and honor these names and their accomplishments. Victory at sea requires not only running a ship and its crew, but knowledge of intricate navigational skills. In addition, naval leaders must manage the elements and the nearly unlimited power of nature, while also defeating foes with equal, or superior, vessels, firepower, and abilities. All of these are no small tasks on their own, but combined are astonishingly difficult and complicated. Simply put – adults and children need heroes and heroines, and our naval history offers plenty of them.

Regrettably, knowledge of military history, and especially basic naval history, have long since been neglected in K-12 schooling. For decades, American education has prioritized soft-skills driven curricular fads and discarded historical facts and coherent national narratives. It is these facts and background knowledge that can truly help students from all ZIP codes understand and navigate the wider world, and the rough waters that oftentimes define the human experience. So that as a society and as educators we too “don’t give up the ship” on this important nautical knowledge, we’re offering a variety of resources to help parents, teachers, and high schoolers:


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