Class spices up history learning with protests, demonstrations

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    By Nicole Matsen

    “Heck No, We Won”t Go!” rang through Professor Grandstaff”s history class where students are getting into the spirit of the Sixties last week.

    Clad with picket signs, banners and bell bottoms, students in the U.S. History since 1945 class are acting out major social movements such as free speech, civil rights, anti-war and women”s rights.

    “It makes class more exciting to see what was going on back then, versus a lecture from a teacher,” said Emily Shultz, 19, a sophomore from Tampa, Fla., majoring in history.

    Nov. 5 was the free speech presentation, Shultz said, where students marched up and down the aisles teaching the rest of the class protest chants.

    “I think one of the main themes during that period was that people were trying to change the world,” Shultz said. “They wanted a different place to live in.”

    Grandstaff has been teaching at BYU for nine years and said he tries to use various teaching techniques to appeal to the students individually. Some students like to act and present, while others are more inclined to doing research, he said.

    “I think students become more inquisitive and excited about the presentations,” Grandstaff said. “Students seem to get a lot more out of it, it is more of a hand-on experience.”

    Grandstaff, who taught at the University of California-Berkeley before coming to BYU, recognizes that students have no idea or only limited knowledge about past movements and what they meant to American culture.

    “Most students were born in the eighties and are unaware of historical events from recent decades. A lot of students didn”t know Reagan was shot,” Grandstaff said.

    He said students have a hard time identifying with the movements, thinking people at that time were too liberal or counter-American, but students don”t realize it was mainstream in America to protest and voice opinions.

    “It moves students out of thinking just about their lives here at BYU,” Grandstaff said. “They start to think about the larger world, and more importantly, that they have a voice in it.”

    He said learning about and researching this era usually is an eye-opener for students, since they start to gain understanding and insight from the movements during the 1960s.

    “It was fun researching civil rights more in-depth,” said Brian Hawkins, 23, a senior from Provo majoring in history. “I realize the emotion that went into it.”

    To convey the feel of the civil rights movement, Hawkins and his group members, showed clips of protests, Martin Luther King”s “I Have a Dream” speech and the early steps of integration.

    “It has been a valuable experience seeing the movement from a personal standpoint, instead of from an academic standpoint,” Hawkins said. “It makes me see how important it was to have the right to speak out and protest.”

    Cale Wester, 25, a senior from Boise, Idaho, majoring in history said he chose to present the anti-war movement because it was something he has always been interested in and wanted to learn more about.

    Wester and his group, did not shy away from the controversial images of that time, such as the My Lai Massacre, the bombing of small Vietnamese towns, American soldiers who lost their lives and the people speaking out to stop the war.

    “I gained a greater understanding for it,” Wester said. “It widened my perspective about the anti-war movement. It was not just hippies speaking out. Mothers, students, African-Americans and war veterans all played a role.”

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