Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Don't Underestimate the US Government Teacher, a Dedication to John Goettsche

 Today, the Supreme Court gave Justice two black eyes, gutting the Voting Rights Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act, separating a Native American father from his Native American daughter and giving her to adoptive parents who paid her anglo mother to adopt her the year before.  They judged that every state should be allowed to handle access to polls as they wished.  Soon after the Governor of TX began to take steps to make those changes which I would say follow the Jim Crow south. 

2013 should be a good year to teach high school US government and Poli-Sci 101 outside of the book, interactively, and in DC.

My Government teacher was John Goettsche and I credit him with preparing me, not only for the Sixties but for now. He rescued me from what I was taught by my US history teacher -- that Soviet Subs were spying on us from the Snake River, that Eisenhower was a communist sympathizer, that "Spartacus" was a communist inspired film ( I suppose because it was anti-slavery) kind of like the ridiculous fear provoking stuff the Tea Party/Republcan Party spreads today about women, and workers, and immigrants and the full diversity of this country. For homework she had us listen to Ronald Reagan and Cleon Skowsen on the radio program "Let Freedom Ring" -- pretty much the same climate as now, although it's worse now because it is post Reagan's presidency. The other US History Teacher was from Arkansas and taught that the Confederacy had won the war.   At least I knew that wasn't true, so I wanted to avoid him. I do not lie or exaggerate about any of this.

Don't underestimate the importance of a good US Government teacher. I run into old classmates who still say that John Goettsche gave them a special book to read which changed them and prepared them to survive the turbulent times of our youth, the influence continuing to the present. He didn't assign me a book.   He assigned me a research paper -- Civil Liberties After WWI. There wasn't any. He directed me to the stacks of our public library reading old Nations and learned about the dangers of the Red Scare, antisemitism, Jim Crow, anti-labor and anti-immigrant hatred, KKK, and I kept reading through WWII, and the Senate Un-American Committee Investigations, about the Rosenbergs. For each of us, he inspired an educated idealism about liberties, and the work it took to make them real.

 I remember his heartfelt talk to us during the Cuban Missile Crisis when we came noisily into his classroom, excited about the possibility of war as if it were a football game with Nampa High School. That was a sobering speech about the truth of war which prepared us in a way  WW2 heroism legends did not. Our generation, back in '67 suffered such high losses. Every American knew someone sacrificed -- whether they came home or died, many were broken and many died at their own hands after returning.  He could not have known what that war would be like, but he did not sugar coat war.  War is sobering.  It is serious. I remember his sharing about his German grandparents, and what happened to them during WW1, and it reverberated in me, my Nikkei family's experience during WW2, and in that moment, I realized that our WW2 experience was an American experience in a way which was healing to me. I wish for more teachers like John Goettsche during these hard times in our country when our political leaders at the national level are on the attack against our hard won rights guaranteed by the US Constitution.  It is, after all, these young student's future we are toying with.  John Goettsche put my own destiny regarding this country quite completely in my hands, and I've never let go of it.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.