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.
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