firstladiesBy Sarah Maraniss Vander Schaaff

Could you identify William Henry Harrison out of a lineup of John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, and Franklin Pierce? To be fair, I pulled these presidents from a posting on US News and World Report highlighting the 10 worst presidents, and this particular question is not one of the many my children have been fielding in the app, Presidents vs. Aliens. But it’s not far off.

Presidents vs. Aliens is a 4.5 star app in the Mindprint Collection, reviews of apps, workbooks, games and learning strategies focused on how the material meets the cognitive needs or strengths of children.

These are no iTunes reviews, helpful as those are. These address concepts that speak to the individual nature of how children learn. For example, the review of Presidents vs. Aliens mentions:

“Students with weaker verbal skills may have difficulty with some of the vocabulary/questions and there is no option to look up definitions.”

And it notes that children with weaker visual memory may have difficulty with the app.

Nevertheless, it’s deemed, “…a great balance of fun and learning.”

And it is. After a child gets an answer correct they get to use their presidential avatar to knock aliens out of space. In a million years, I would never have thought to pair John Adams with an extraterrestrial threat.

But as I’ve let my children play around on the app, and seen how much they enjoy it, and yes, learn various things about the presidents, I’ve come up with my own concern that has nothing to do with the app.

It’s simply this: it’s all men.

I’m not going to judge the history of the United States presidency on my own expectations for the present. “Presentism” as I’ve heard it called elsewhere, is imposing the standards of today on things of a different place in history and progress.

Still, how about a great app that involves the exploits of first ladies: Dolly Madison (Dolly saves the White House paintings) or Abigail Adams (fighting smallpox) and Eleanor Roosevelt (fighting bigotry) and Betty Ford (Campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment). Sure, I admit I’d pick the avatar of Jacqueline Kennedy because I love an Oleg Cassini dress as much as the next woman, but I think my idea for an app serves a very important function besides teaching trivia about the first ladies.

Because at the moment, 43 people have been sworn into the office of the presidency, and while not all of them have sideburns like Martin Van Buren, many of them look very much alike.

An app won’t change that. But the little girls who play it surely will.


In honor of Presidents’ Day and the women who made them:

50% off a full subscription:

Including the Mindprint Assessment, Unique Learning Profile, and 1-year access to a customized collection of learning strategies, workbooks, apps and games. Use code: PresWkend at check out thru Tuesday, 2/17/15.

click here: Mindprint Learning


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Comments (0)

  1. Barbara Schempp


    What calms the mom, calms the child. Any ritual or tradition that entails a setting aside of daily woes and permits a quiet sharing helps us feel warm and content (think of how tea time must have helped the Brits get through the wars)! But I’m with you: adding chocolate can only help even more!

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