Veterans’ Tales by Vassar Bushmills
“Can you tell me how many nations…in the History of the World…have sent armies, and sacrificed their men’s lives, to rescue the people of other countries?”
16-17 year-old kids are a tough room in any generation. That’s because every generation is different, so you never know what you’re going to get when you meet them as a group. They are often very smart but also skeptical about older people who try to tell things they don’t know, unless presented to them under special circumstances.
A classroom is one of those circumstances, So one you have them there, you have to reach up and grab them.
The good news is that Veterans, unlike almost anyone else in America, have street cred no other group of Americans have.
This “First Lecture” is designed to demonstrate how you can do this simply by 1) being a Veteran and having seen and done things they haven’t and 2) telling them something really extraordinary about their country and their heritage they would never have heard anywhere else, and possibly never believed had it not come from a Veteran or at least a certified teacher.
And you will have done your country a favor, for they are learning these things anywhere else.
These kids are almost old enough to enlist, so think about how you looked at the world your junior-senior year in high school. Most will come to your class because they have to be there, not because they want to be there.
I went down that road for a few years in a small city college with some tough inner-city kids in the early 90’s, who also didn’t want to be there. They knew they had to be there or they couldn’t get their degree.
This opening lecture is how I grabbed them. Over five years, it worked every time.
In order to win them over you need to make what you are teaching them to be relevant in their lives, as they see it now, as 16-17 year olds. You need to plant seeds that will stay buried in their sub-conscience forever, arising only when the subject arises again in later years.
You will be teaching those kids things that were taught to generations of Americans in public schools before 1970, in basically this same way, but are hardly mentioned any longer. And there are colleges today that openly refute all sorts of things about America’s history that you must know to refute.
If we do this right, in another generation, those anti-American professors will be washing dishes at TGI-Fridays.
People who don’t like “America-as-founded” have tried to put a stop to that process of passing our heritage on, which the people of America, since the early 1800’s, demanded be a part of public school curriculum.
You first task is to get the students in front of you hooked, since if you can get them hooked, they won’t have to be pushed out the door to come back a second time.
* * * *
There are no rules as to how to handle your classroom. I like the lecture method, where I stand and they sit. There are hundreds of years of reasons why this is the chosen best way for people to teach people younger and less experienced than they are.
Expect there to be adults in the classroom as well, both observing you and how the kids react to you.
The things I have written for you here they will have never heard it before. And the things you will teach them will beg several questions. And some future lectures will be based on those. Spin-offs. At the end, below, I’ve listed some of those topics, previews of coming attractions.
We are not just teaching American history and American government, but also American culture and its moral foundation, and how those things have blended to make America unique.
It’s the American culture and moral foundation we are trying to save.
This is not a script, unless you want it to be. With any luck you’ll get to give each of these lecture 5-10 times a years.
* * * *
Walk into the classroom, write your name on the board, and introduce yourself.
They’ll already know you’re a Vet. That’s your street cred with them. So act military and stand tall (unless you’re in a wheelchair). Kids have a high degree of respect for wounded Vets but are also conditioned to have a certain level of pity, too. Your enthusiasm for what you’re teaching will disabuse them of this notion.
State you are a Veteran, and tell them your branch of service, and also the number of years you served. Remember, 17-year old kids were born after 911, so even the blowing up of the Two Towers are ancient history to them. If you served in a war zone tell them where. But don’t go into too much detail, for kids love war stories. You’ll have plenty of time to tell them your MOS and the sort of things you did or saw there in chat sessions after class. They’ll have all sorts of questions[…]
|Editor’s Note: The above excerpt of this lecture is in follow up to Vassar Bushmills’ earlier posting,
Instruction Page for Veterans’ Lecture Series
(Vets In Class)
Please feel free to visit Veterans’ Tales to view the above lecture in its entirety, future lectures, etc. In addition, please share and direct any comments, feedback or questions that you might have to VassarB@gmail.com,