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Spring 2013 Researches North Korea, Visits NRA to Meet with President David Keene, Confronts Boston Bombings

Our students slept well this weekend after what was arguably the busiest week in SEGL history.

Our journey began on Sunday afternoon, when nearly 100 members of the SEGL community–students, graduates, parents, and friends–came together in our virtual classroom to watch Girl Rising, a compelling new documentary about educating girls around the world.  Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 4.15.23 PMAfter the showing, we spoke with the film’s Executive Producer, Tom Yellin, using our state-of-the-art videoconferencing technology.  From Washington to Wisconsin, from Dallas to DC, from Norway to New Jersey, we asked engaging questions and listened intently to Yellin’s answers.  The event’s success increases our hope for more community-wide online events like this in the future.

On Monday morning our Capstone Policy Document process kicked into high gear.  After a day of research at the George Washington University’s Gelman Libraries–our students are the only high school group allowed in the libraries–highlighted by a session from leading GW research librarian David Ettinger, the students prepared initial recommendations for our notorious “review committee.”  The review committee is a four-member faculty panel; each faculty member plays a different real-world leader who fires tough, ornery questions at the presenters.  Each group has 20 minutes before the firing line.  The goals of the session are to help students make their recommendations full-proof, and to give them experience handling difficult questioning on the spot (perhaps one day one of them will do this kind of thing before the Supreme Court or a Congressional Hearing!).

Later that afternoon, we called the students together to inform them of the Boston Marathon bombings.  We had the students immediately contact loved ones and allowed interested students to follow the news coverage; parents and close friends of the school were kept abreast of the students’ lives throughout the experience.  Though it was a trying time. the resilience of the SEGL community is impressive.

On Thursday, we drove to the headquarters of the National Rifle Association to meet with President David Keene.  NRASpread-11(We had recently met with others on different sides of the gun debate.)  Keene gave the students an hour and a half, most of which was used for intense, respectful questions and articulate answers.  The conversation was all the more poignant because the Senate had failed to pass highly-publicized gun control legislation the day before.  After the conversation, we visited the National Firearms Museum, which included guns from the Mayflower and every major U.S. conflict, as well as a recreation of Theodore Roosevelt’s study with actual artifacts (for example, a trash can made from an elephant’s foot and lower leg).  And then we had a tour of the NRA’s shooting range.  (No one was shooting during the students’ visit.)  As you can imagine, the ride home was simultaneously pensive and fervent.

That evening, events in Boston took a chaotic turn.  We chose to let the students sleep through the uncertainty, and connected them with loved ones (and the news) in brief dorm meetings before the day began.  Though appropriately unsettled, the community rallied, offering particular support for those students from the Boston area.  Advisors made additional check-ins, and we were ready with additional resources for students who needed them.

On Friday after classes we trekked to the National Archives for a special behind-the-scenes tour and a meeting with key Archives staffers.  (Unfortunately, our scheduled meeting with the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero was canceled because Ferriero was in Boston managing the JFK Library fire that occurred on the same day as the Boston Marathon bombings.)  We discussed ethical questions like who decides which records to keep in the Archives, whether withholding information from the Archives is ever proper, and why governments might decide not to have Archives like the U.S. does.  As one student said afterward, the visit made her feel more proud to be a citizen of a government that makes its proceedings available to any citizen for any purpose.

That evening many students were glued to the television as reports out of Boston indicated that the second bombing suspect was found and then taken into custody.  It is perhaps worth noting that as the news of law enforcement negotiators who successfully arranged the surrender broke, our students were beginning their reading of the negotiating classic, Getting to Yes.

All in a week’s work at SEGL.  Here’s to a less stressful week ahead.

Apr 22, 2013

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