I happened to listen to Lindsey Vonn on the “Today Show” on Jan. 7 on NBC. Vonn is the phenomenal American skier who recently tore her ACL and cannot compete in this year’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Vonn said she was personally disappointed that cannot represent herself. More importantly, she said she was even more disappointed that she could not represent the United States.

That got me to thinking. When I took ancient history in high school, I learned that wars were suspended between warring city-states for the original Olympics in ancient Greece. The purpose was to promote individual excellence above national pride. Athenians often cheered for Spartan participants and vice versa. Individual performance was of prime importance.

What has happened to our civilization? Have we learned nothing?

In ancient history class, we also learned about great achievements in both science and philosophy. I learned more about life in ancient history class than any other class.

Then came American history. What a drag. I spent the whole year studying practically nothing but one war after another from the French-Indian Wars to Korea. (I graduated in 1961; otherwise I would have had to suffer through even more wars). I had to memorize an endless list of battle dates and names of generals.

One exception: The Industrial Revolution. It seems the invention of the cotton gin made it possible to build textile mills. Those mills became a great source of enslaving young immigrant women by paying them starvation wages. Such an endeavor was so successful, even more factories were built. All this eventually became the military-industrial complex.

Oh yes, I studied history in school. And, much to the chagrin of the powers that be, I did learn.

Peter P. SiroisMadison