I guess my take on this probably isn’t ‘charming’, but I do remember being an adoptee trying to do these projects. Now, I’m a mother and grandmother with minors in history and sociology helping my offspring fill in the blanks. I’m an active member of my local genealogical society, and I’ve come to have a great appreciation for the purpose behind teaching children about family trees.
I do know that some ap’s as well as adoptees are very much against these projects, but I think they are absolutely wonderful. First of all, they inspire an adoptee to ask questions. Second, they begin to teach the student their place in history. Unfortunately, in the case of adoptees, our histories have been rewritten. I remember the first of these projects I encountered was in second grade, and all we were asked to discover was our ancestors’ national origin. I had often wondered where I came from, but I had never before wondered where my family originated. When I inquired of my amom, she informed me that my mother’s surname ‘sounded German’. Today, I can trace that surname back to 17th century Switzerland. I have a copy of a letter written in German by my g-g-g-grandmother, an Amish woman, explaining to her brother why she hoped to leave France for America. She went into some detail about the economic and social upheaval that inspired her desire. Reading that letter then visiting her grave here in America conveys a personal sense of history that just cannot be acquired from a book.
IMO, it’s not the assignment that should be address with the teacher, but the purpose of the assignment with those who question its value. History provides vital lessons, and those lessons are no less crucial at the personal level than at the global level. We cannot expect to build an appreciation of world history while ignoring the importance of personal history. It is like trying to build a castle without a foundation. It may appear beautiful, but its beauty will be fragile and brief. If my personal history is of such little value that it can be discarded, why should I care about the history of others? Why should I care about history at all? And if I do find value in human history, why should I allow my own history to be erased?
This project is about much more than writing names in a blank. It is about identity, self-respect, and understanding our place in the human experience. It is an important project.