Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Sage on the Stage

In my writing class, the assignment for the next two weeks is to research a famous person in civil rights history and write a 2-3 page paper about his or her life. The persons I've listed to choose from are Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Dred Scott, or Barack Obama.

The 20 students from SE Asia are given many opportunities to take field trips, so we designed a field trip to Springfield, IL to see the Lincoln Museum. This newly opened museum is awesome in its reality and scope of learning. This learning experience could hopefully enhance their research for the paper.

The students went all through the museum, and saw Abraham Lincoln's life from beginning to end. The displays, audio-visual productions and live performances were awesome! I've heard from others how well done this museum is, and they were right. It was wonderful.

After we toured the museum, we went to the Illinois State Capital. We got a tour of the building, including the House of Representatives, Senate and Governor's mansions. Then the questions started to come my way. What is a governor? How is thie person chosen? Why are there two rooms for the House and Senate? What's the difference between these two groups? Who chooses these people? How long do they stay in office? And who is the Governor?

The answer the last question will stump anyone, since a new one is only been in office a couple of days! (See last weeks late night TV shows for a shot of the old governor trying to convince the world he isn't a crook.) The rest of the questions were answered in a 15 minute civics lecture harking back to my 7th grade social studies teacher days. For some of the students, the soft chairs we were given to sit in lulled them into a nice naptime, but for others it sparked about 20 minutes of questions. Especially pointed questions were thrown at me by two very interested scholars, seeking to understand the whole idea of representative government from beginning to end!

I felt like Socrates, sitting in the marble hallways, with interested students surrounding me, asking me questions. Thank heaven I knew the answers to most of the questions. One young man got a booklet--Your government at work--so he could really make sure I was telling the truth and not faking it!

It was a long day, from 6:15 a.m. when I left my house, to a train ride to Springfield, then walking the streets of Springfield for about 6 hours, to the train ride home and back in my house by 7:45 p.m. But it was a good day, and I really felt like the students learned something. At least from their questions, they really seemed interested.....

...more than most American students are when they are taught the same lessons....

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