Sometimes history is ancient, and sometimes it’s happening right now, during your Cambridge U.S. Government class.
Everglades High School teacher Daniel Egnor couldn’t resist using the mob riot at the Capitol as an incredible teaching opportunity.
“I was kinda taken aback by the magnitude of it all, that I think this moment, in particular, was something we will be teaching about in 10, 20 years,” Egnor said. “Depending on how you look at it, this is the greatest or worst teachable moment I’ve had, it’s something I would never wish to happen.”
CAPITOL RIOT COVERAGE
Egnor is teaching from his classroom but his students are learning from home. He departed from the usual curriculum on Thursday to discuss the events in Washington, playing video of the rioters storming the Capitol building which the kids could see on their laptops.
The students chimed in vigorously when Egnor asked them if they had thoughts on the incident. We only heard their voices, and could not see their names.
“I see this as the most disrespectful thing that a citizen can do,” said one young man.
“How’s it even possible, how can you really break into the Capitol?” asked one young woman.
“You may have heard words like sedition, you guys know what sedition means?” Egnor asked his class. “Insurrection, a similar word, trying to overthrow the government.”
They talked about what to call them: protesters, terrorists, radicals, demonstrators?
“Our terminology depends quite a bit on who you agree with,” Egnor said to his students.
Several students drew comparisons between the way police treated the Trump supporters who rampaged through the Capitol Wednesday, and the way they treated Black Lives Matter demonstrators during the summer.
“I certainly had those same thoughts myself yesterday,” Egnor said.
And more than one student criticized President Trump’s comments which he made after the rioting had ended.
“Saying we love you, you’re very special, go home, it’s OK, he didn’t really seem to care,” said one young woman.
The discussion we heard involved the whole class. High school kids are watching, and the events of Jan. 6, 2021, might be the historical moment that defines their generation.
“In a lot of ways they grew up a little bit, because of this, and I think they sort of understand the ramifications,” Egnor said. “Those images will last forever.”
As if to underscore that thought, one student said, “The same thing happening to our empire is what happened to Rome.”
Putting it in context, Egnor explained to his students, “You have to go back over 200 years to the last time the Capitol building was breached and an invading force entered and that was the British army who did that.”
“This was an attack on democracy, and I was thinking how is that even possible in this country,” said principal Haleh Darbar.
Darbar fled from Iran to the United States as a child. The Capitol invasion was like a deja vu for her. Darbar was 11 when Islamic radicals stormed the American embassy in Tehran.
“People jumping the walls of the embassy and you know invading it, it was exactly the same way,” Darbar said.
As Egnor told his class, American privilege means we don’t expect to see third-world stuff like tear gas and guns being fired in our Capitol building.
This generation is learning that democracy must be guarded, and no one should take it for granted.