History+teacher%2C+Brad+Anderson%2C+standing+in+front+a+wall+in+his+classroom%2C+circa+2019

The Central Trend

History teacher, Brad Anderson, standing in front a wall in his classroom, circa 2019

Inauguration Day in the classroom: a Q&A with Mr. Anderson

Name: Mr. Brad Anderson

Classes: AP World History

How many of your classes did you show the inauguration today, and for how long?

“I started it when the dignitaries started to enter the US Capital and went out onto what is commonly referred to as kind of the ‘Front Porch of Democracy,’ onto the balcony of the Capitol; so when the former presidents started coming onto the stage—about 11:30 [a.m.]—I tuned in and watched it through its entirety.”

Why do you feel like the inauguration was important for your students to see during class today?

“Well, it’s been a hard year, and all throughout history—as we study in my class, 10,000 years of human history—the peaceful transfer of power is not routine, nor normal in many cases. For 240 years, our country has watched the peaceful transfer of power through war, through pandemic, through civil strife, and we watched it again today. And it’s a national turning of a new chapter. Nothing’s magically going to be changed tomorrow. Nothing’s magically going to be different for the bad or for the good tomorrow. But as we mark our time in this country, it’s marked by presidential administrations and far ranging events like COVID-19. So that’s why I watched it today, because inaugural addresses are studied in APUSH and regular US History and in Civics class. The views that we see are etched into the memory of our national collective conscious. And so I want my students to have an avenue to see that. They might not ever watch it; they might not have tuned in today if they were hybrid, and that’s their right to do so, but [I think] they’ll be thankful in the long run, when they’re my age and beyond, that they did.”

How do you think watching the inauguration directly ties into your students’ education?

“Education is more than content. Education is more than what goes on the whiteboard or on a slideshow or in a Zoom lesson. I look at education more as enrichment. We’re at where we’re at, largely, in our country because we have a terrible national memory. We have not learned from the lessons of the past. We have the collective memory of a butterfly, and history has been ignored too often. So, you know, as far as their education goes, this to me is the ultimate enrichment. We need to see things like this; today, the message to all Americans was unity, coming together, putting aside the political differences—whether you’re red or blue or you don’t care—when you see political rivals—heated, political rivals—come together, stand together, it means that tomorrow, maybe for a little while, we can work together. And if they can do it, we can do it. And if they can put aside huge national challenges for a day to say, ‘Hey, let’s come together,’ I hope that we can see that lesson and do the same in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and [in] our communities. So I like students to see history live.”

Did you have any experiences similar to this one in your education experience? If so, were you grateful for that?

Now I’m going on 40 years old; I’ll be 40 this year. And so I was telling the students that I remember the first inauguration I watched, and I don’t remember a word that was said, but I watched George H. W. Bush in 1989 get inaugurated. And you know, that didn’t leave a huge impact on me, but it’s the collective view of history, from tuning in during the first Gulf War—I remember seeing that on TV, the Berlin Wall coming down, the fall of the Soviet Union, all the way up to 9-11; it’s those moments in history that either tear you apart or bring you together. This one hopefully brings us together, despite whomever you supported, whomever you voted for, whomever you didn’t vote for, I hope that Inauguration Day is for all Americans.”

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