Alta-Aurelia students study Kennedy assassination onsite

Friday, December 2, 2011
left to right - Molly McDaniel, James Curbow, Joseph Coll, Kaitlin Brake, chaperone Keila Glienke and Chayce Glienke enjoyed their educational visit to Dallas, Texas in November. They are shown here in front of the former School Book Depository, which now houses a permanent museum on the 6th Floor. Photo contributed.

Dave Curbow has been an educator in the Alta (now Alta-Aurelia) High School for several years now, teaching primarily English and Creative Writing, but he also teaches a cIass called Critical Thinking - which is definitely not a class from the "old days," when you and I were in school.

The Critical Thinking class encourages its students to do just that - to seriously THINK about subjects, looking at them from all angles and points of view and making informed choices on what to believe.

One of the subjects in the class is the November 22,1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Curbow says he uses the Kennedy assassination as a class topic because of the distinct positions that have developed between those who believe it was the act of Lee Harvey Oswald alone and those who believe it was a conspiracy. And because there is so much written on it,Curbow says, the information can be easily accessed by the students.

Sorting out the value of the information is far more challenging though. And therein lies the value for the students: What is the truth, and on what is that truth based?

As an extension and to truly be able to understand the issues, Curbow feels that it is critical to have spent time "on site" : books, pictures, and movies just do not provide the perspective necessary to evaluate either the government's pronouncements or the critics' charges. With that in mind, Curbow recently received permission from the School Board to travel out-of-state with a small group of students from the Critical Thinking class. Paying their own way, students Kaitlin Brake, Molly McDaniel, Chayce Glienke, Joseph Coll and James Curbow, accompanied by Curbow and chaperone Keila Glienke, recently spent a few days in Dallas.

From the narrow area in which the assassination took place to the steep slope leading to the triple underpass, Curbow says the students were struck by how different it was being there versus what they had imagined it to look like. He feels it will be interesting to see how much that shapes their thinking as their conclusions are drawn.

The students spent a couple of hours in the Sixth Floor Museum at the former Texas School Book Depository looking at displays of the assassination and Kennedy's presidency, but their focus was clearly on the former. They took turns gazing at the motorcade route from the window at which the alleged assassin sat, trying to determine if the feat were indeed possible from a spot six feet to their left. They were provided a tour of several areas of interest on that November day, beginning with a drive through of Dealey Plaza. They were driven the route to the hospital, shown the emergency entrance where the victims were taken, then retraced President Johnson's drive back to Love Field.

Starting at Love Field, they were then taken on the motorcade route into the city so they could imagine what it was like so many years before. One detour from the route was taken to show how where Oswald's rented room was located in relation to the home of former General Edwin Walker,as it had been determined after the assassination that Gen. Walker was nearly a victim of Oswald the previous April.

The group then returned to the motorcade route, where they were shown Oswald's path in returning to his rented room, and then the spot where he murdered Dallas Police Department Officer J. D. Tippit. Just beyond that, another point of interest was the apartment of Jack Ruby, the man who murdered Oswald in the Dallas police station. The group's final tour stops were at the Texas Theater, where Oswald was arrested, and at the Dallas jail on the east end of Main Street.

All of this displayed quite dramatically how all of the points visited - with the exception of Walker's house - were not that far apart from each other.

The other reason the class went to Dallas was to attendi the JFK Assissination Lancer Conference, where they listened to several speakers who presented information they had developed concerning the assassination, and tried to determine how much of it was accurate or could contribute to finding an acceptable conclusion.

The students had the opportunity to visit with the presenters, and one had the courage to ask a question in the open forum following a presentation, and then follow with a well-formed follow up qusetion.

When they gathered as a group to discuss the presentations, the Alta-Aurelia students were anxious to share what they thought, and Curbow said he was thrilled with the responses they had.

In conclusion, Curbow said that the maturity and well-mannered behavior of the Alta-Aurelia students didn't surprise him, but it certainly did impress him.Their presence, he said, honored the Alta and Aurelia communities.

What has amazed him the most, Curbow said, is that upon returning home, some of the students were talking about possibly returning to Dallas two years from now when the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination will be commemorated.

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