|A yellowed copy of an Ernie Pyle column, from my Dad's collection of clippings.|
This is the way college classes should be taught--upper level students having fun and paying attention to two gray-haired experts in their fields. Of course, Baker carries most of the load in the classes, first because there's so much about the wars that our students don't understand. Second, because I'm more clever than he (not smarter), and figured out how not to work so hard.
But today was pretty much my show. Last week we set the stage with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the coverage, and the causes. Today I talked about America depending on the radio and newspaper correspondents to know what was happening since there was no TV, videos, etc. Of course I had to explain journalistic style to the history majors because the entire class has to write once a week.
|An envelope addressed to my grandmother in 1944 from my uncle Mike.|
Baker's emphasis is on historical causes, and especially the soldiers, the common fighting men and women, and on the effects on the home front. Thursday we look at the mental trauma caused by the war. Our textbook is Studs Terkel's The Good War, where he interviews WWII survivors, men and women and military and civilians about their experiences. A bunch of snippets that show the effects on the common person. We bounce around a lot in the book, picking and choosing for our content.
The students have to bring a blue book (yes they still have those) to class and we take from 20 to 30 minutes a week at the close of a class period( 30 minutes today), and give them an assignment to write about, as though they were writing a letter or a press report back home. They can make up identities, but the people and events have to be historic, as though they were there. Yes, they can use their books and notes.
Today's assignment was to write about one of two subjects. One, they had just returned from a Nazi rally in the mid 1930s--either in America or Germany, and were responding to a newspaper editorial calling for American isolationism. Two, they were writing a first person account of the Pearl Harbor attack. (Great ideas, huh? Baker's brilliant).
My students have to "adopt" a war correspondent and give a visual and verbal report later in class. Off limits: Hemingway, just because. And Ernie Pyle and Bill Mauldin. I get a whole class period on Pyle. Baker takes Mauldin.
First half of the semester is WWII. Second half is about Vietnam.
I've just finished grading my students first assignments. For the most part, these adults can write. I'll share a couple of excerpts soon. You'll be impressed.