A lesson in history

— Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School stu­dents score a glimpse in­to gov­ern­ment, thanks to the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter's trav­el­ing his­tory and civics pro­gram.

Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter demon­strat­or Al Haynes ex­plains to Lin­coln High School stu­dents that Jack­ie Robin­son’s #42 is not used by base­ball teams today out of re­spect for the his­tor­ic fig­ure. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


The re­cent de­bate for the pres­id­ency was no con­test.

No, not last week’s Barack Obama/Mitt Rom­ney show­down.

Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School hos­ted a match­up between the Yel­low Party and the Or­ange Party.

Al Haynes, a pub­lic pro­grams demon­strat­or for the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter, brought the cen­ter’s trav­el­ing his­tory and civics pro­gram to Lin­coln’s lib­rary.

Yel­low Party nom­in­ee Kon­nor Mc­Grorty told his class­mates he was run­ning on a plat­form of bring­ing sol­diers home from over­seas, keep­ing jobs in Amer­ica and stop­ping aid to for­eign coun­tries.

“We need to stop im­mig­ra­tion now. Am I right?” he asked.

The party had slo­gans such as Re­mem­ber the Yel­low, Pick This Fel­low, and Amer­ica the Beau­ti­ful, Amer­ica the Brave, Vote for Kon­nor, He’s all the Rave. 

Or­ange Party nom­in­ee Joshua Pa­gan told fel­low stu­dents that he would be “Amer­ica’s back­bone.” He’d also fo­cus on health care if elec­ted.

“I’m go­ing to raise taxes,” he said, “but I’m go­ing to raise paychecks.”

In the end, the class sided with Mc­Grorty, 21-11, and “Hail to the Chief” was played in his hon­or.

Mc­Grorty and Pa­gan, both seni­ors, might not have agreed on the is­sues, but they did share pos­it­ive feel­ings about the present­a­tion by Haynes.

“I en­joyed it. It was pretty fun. We learned a little bit about his­tory and more about the struc­ture of gov­ern­ment,” Mc­Grorty said.

“We learned about the polit­ic­al parties and the is­sues go­ing on in the world,” Pa­gan said.

Lin­coln teach­er Robyn Guen­ther con­tac­ted the Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter to ar­range the vis­it. Haynes gave two present­a­tions — Break­ing Bar­ri­ers and Des­tin­a­tion White House — on Sept. 25 to three groups of stu­dents in Guen­ther’s so­cial sci­ence and Afric­an-Amer­ic­an his­tory classes.

Both present­a­tions fea­tured slide shows and props.

The Break­ing Bar­ri­ers slide show star­ted with a brick wall, and stu­dents were in­vited to throw a Nerf foot­ball at the screen in a mock at­tempt to knock the bricks away.

The dis­cus­sion out­lined the con­tri­bu­tions of prom­in­ent black Amer­ic­ans such as ten­nis play­ers Ar­thur Ashe, Venus Wil­li­ams and Ser­ena Wil­li­ams and Prin­ceton Uni­versity pro­fess­or Cor­nel West. It touched on The Cosby Show, a pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion com­edy of the 1980s. And it chron­icled the struggle of the so-called “Little Rock Nine” to in­teg­rate an Arkan­sas pub­lic high school in 1957.

Fresh­men and sopho­mores had a chance to try on a Jack­ie Robin­son base­ball jer­sey, a doc­tor’s lab coat, an as­tro­naut’s flight suit and a U.S. Su­preme Court justice’s robe.

“There were a lot of tech­niques to en­gage them. I think it was ef­fect­ive,” Haynes said.

The non-par­tis­an Des­tin­a­tion White House present­a­tion in­cluded a look at pos­it­ive and neg­at­ive polit­ic­al com­mer­cials from the past.

The pos­it­ive spot was pro­duced by Roy Dis­ney in 1952 for Re­pub­lic­an Dwight Eis­en­hower and fea­tured an­im­ated char­ac­ters hold­ing “Ike” signs and march­ing in a parade.

The neg­at­ive spot was the in­fam­ous 1964 “Daisy” com­mer­cial by Pres­id­ent Lyn­don John­son that showed a 2-year-old girl pick­ing and count­ing the petals of a daisy. It ends by show­ing a mush­room cloud from a nuc­le­ar ex­plo­sion — a ref­er­ence to Re­pub­lic­an Barry Gold­wa­ter’s sug­ges­tion that nuc­le­ar bombs might be needed to win the Vi­et­nam War.

Haynes spoke about the Great De­pres­sion and asked which pres­id­ent was elec­ted to four terms.

“He’s on the dime,” he hin­ted to stu­dents who were ini­tially stumped that Frank­lin D. Roosevelt was the longest-serving pres­id­ent.

Haynes said the present­a­tion was timely be­cause of the on­go­ing Obama/Rom­ney cam­paign.

“It’s very pop­u­lar right now. The show is more about de­vel­op­ing a plat­form and find­ing a way to con­nect with the pub­lic,” he said.

A grant from the Thomas Skelton Har­ris­on Found­a­tion paid for the present­a­tion to the Lin­coln stu­dents.

“I’m al­ways look­ing for out­side re­sources,” Guen­ther said. “I wanted something that would pique their in­terest and jump-start the year so they can stay fo­cused on learn­ing.” ••

Teach­ers in­ter­ested in ar­ran­ging a present­a­tion by the Na­tion­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter can call 215-409-6600 or vis­it con­sti­tu­tion­cen­ter.org


You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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