Sunday, April 26, 2009

Barbara Jordan at Bowie High School

On Friday, April 24, at the same time that the statue of Barbara Jordan was being unveiled at the University of Texas at Austin, I was across town at Bowie High School with one of my Nonmilitary Options for Youth colleagues, Iraq war vet, Hart Viges. As I've noted before in this blog, one of the peace education tools we've been using this year during our school visits is a "Peace Wheel of Fortune" that includes people, some more famous than others, who have used nonviolence to advance freedom and justice. Barbara Jordan is on our peace wheel, and it was great to be able to tell students that her statue's unveiling ceremony was taking place at UT even as we spoke.
The idea of the peace wheel is that students spin it, and if they can tell us something about the person on the wheel where it stops, they choose one of our fabulous prizes. We give students info sheets after they've tried it, and often students will do a quick study and come back to try again. At Crockett HS during a career fair this spring, one student was discouraged that she knew so few of the peacemakers on the wheel, so she took an info sheet, sat down and studied it for about 20 minutes, then came back and went around the wheel, telling us something about each of the people on it, and doing it perfectly.
Consistently, in our use of the wheel, students like it and are eager to call up what they know about figures like MLK, Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and others. They seem to like learning about people on the wheel they don't know. They're surprised to see MLK next to artists like John Lennon or the hip-hop group, Flobots, for example. They're impressed when they read about Julia Butterfly Hill living for two years in a tree in order to prevent it from being cut down.
None of the students who tried the wheel at Bowie were familiar with what Barbara Jordan had done. Only one teacher who came by and tried the wheel knew about her.
As I've noted before, students aren't able to say much about what MLK and Gandhi did either, and very few know about Cesar Chavez, even though they know we have a street named for him. So, through using the wheel, this is our main finding: peace history is not widely taught, yet kids are interested in it and want to know more. How will they know what the alternatives to war are if they don't learn what alternatives have been and are being used?
Long, long overdue, there is finally a statue of a woman on the UT campus. I'm thrilled that the first is Barbara Jordan. I'm hoping this will increase even younger students' knowledge of what she actually did in her life so they can learn from her example.
Here are some photos and a short description about our experience at Bowie on Friday.

Yesterday, I went to see the Barbara Jordan statue, and she was attracting a steady stream of admirers. The two plaqes on either side that contain some of her quotes are well done, and her statements resonate today.
photos by makingpeace

1 comment:

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