JFK Assassinated, 1963

On this day 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I wrote more about the day in this post from last year.

I started this blog because I believe that learning about history the day it occurred helps us connect to the past. However, last month I visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza on a field trip and realized that learning about history where it occurred can be even more powerful.

Description: The former Texas Schoolbook Depos...

The former Texas Schoolbook Depository 

The Sixth Floor Museum is located on the sixth and seventh floors of the former Texas School Book Depository at Dealey Plaza, from where Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy.

The sixth floor of the museum is completely silent save for some films playing throughout the exhibit. Museum-goers move through the museum at their own pace with a free audio guide. First, the guide walks you through the major events of JFK’s presidency leading up to his assassination, such as the Bay of Pigs and the Space Race.

The museum consists of large panels with pictures as well as artifacts from the period.

Then, the audio guide talks about Kennedy’s upcoming visit to Dallas. I knew what was going to happen next, but when I turned the corner into the section of the museum describing his assassination, I was overcome with emotion.

I was not expecting to be so affected by the museum because I do not have a connection to this period of time like my parents and grandparents do; I knew the event was devastating, but I always felt removed from it because it happened so long ago. However, the way the museum walks you through the events of his presidency and assassination chronologically makes it feel almost as if you are experiencing it firsthand. Even the best history books cannot create that effect.

Perhaps the most powerful moment for me was when I was looking at an old black and white picture of the window from where Oswald shot Kennedy and then I looked to my right and saw the same window. In that moment, history came alive.

Then the audio guide directs you toward the windows overlooking the grassy knoll, describing the chaotic 1963 scene as you look out at the calm, modern-day area. Some students even saw a retro car driving through Dealey Plaza when they looked out the window.

Afterwards, you can watch a movie about his funeral. As my teacher observed, it conveniently gives you a dark place to discretely cry after going through the most emotional portion of the museum.

The museum continues with  the aftermath of the assassination and the mystery surrounding the event. There is even a wall dedicated to alternative theories of his assassination.

In the end, the field trip was a great experience that helped me better understand the pained shock that the nation felt on this day 50 years ago. I would highly recommend the Sixth Floor Museum to anyone who has the opportunity to visit Dallas. The museum does a great job of being both respectful and informative.

Dallas news station WFAA’s coverage of the assassination.

Finally, my local news station, WFAA, played their original 1963 broadcast today. I have not gotten the chance to see it yet, but the full coverage is available online.

It’s My Anniversary!

On this day in 2012, I started my blog! Cue the fireworks!

This might not be a  historical event, but it’s a significant part of my personal history. I started this blog a year ago to learn more about historical events on the day that they occurred and to share that knowledge with you. I did not know if this would be an endeavor I would stick with, but the reward of learning about our world’s rich history and the kind feedback I have received have kept me going.

Thank you, Marilyn, for the birthday wishes!

Thanks for reading!

Armistice Day, 1918

Did everyone make a wish at 11:11 on 11/11?

That’s okay; I forgot too. I think I was conjugating French verbs or something equally boring.

But a very important historical event occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month… the armistice between the Allies and Germany!

Soldiers celebrate the armistice.

Thus, November 11 is known as Armistice Day, Veteran’s Day, and Remembrance Day in different countries.

Depending on where you live, you may be seeing a lot of poppies. This is because poppies are a symbol of remembrance for those who have died in war. The symbol of the poppy was inspired by the poem “In Flanders’ Fields” written by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. The poem describes how poppies would grow in the ground over dead soldiers’ bodies.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

McCrae’s poem, written in 1915, was used as propaganda.

I used to not like studying the First World War. It was just the war that we briefly studied before World War II, which was when things got interesting. Oh, how wrong I was. World War I is fascinating! It only took an Oscar-winning movie and an enthusiastic IB History of the Americas teacher to persuade me.

However, as interesting as World War I is, it was a also a tragic period of history in which 16 million people lost their lives and 20 million were injured. These numbers do not take into consideration the social effects of the war. Many soldiers returned home with PTSD; the men and women who came of age during this period were called “The Lost Generation,” and war was no longer viewed as a positive and glorious means of achieving a country’s goals.

Armistice Day became Veteran’s Day in America after World War II as a day to remember not only those who fought in World War I, but all of our veterans.

So I would like to take a moment to thank all veteran’s for their service- for having enough courage to fight overseas in war and having the courage to come back home and face a different set of struggles.

Thank you.

Genie Discovered by Authorities, 1970

On this day in 1970, a 13-year-old girl was discovered by authorities after her mother took her to welfare offices in LA. Her mother, Irene Wiley, was looking for financial assistance, but the social workers were more concerned by her thin daughter who “bunny walked” around with her hands in front of her and displayed other developmental disabilities.

Genie’s “bunny walk”

Irene Wiley and her husband, John Wiley, were charged with child abuse. The young girl, who was given the name “Genie” to protect her identity,  grew up in a life of deprivation. Her father thought that Genie was mentally retarded and confined her to a small room. She spent most of life her life tied naked to a potty chair in the secluded room. Her father would beat her every time she made noise and would mostly communicate with her in barks and growls. Genie was only spoon-fed milk and Pablum.

As a result, Genie was malnourished; she could not walk properly, and she could not speak. Because deprivation experiments are considered unethical, psychologists and psycholinguists can only study the effects of deprivation in cases such as Genie. Consequently, Genie was exploited by scientists who wanted to make a name for themselves. In fact, Jean Butler, Genie’s nursery school teacher supposedly told her colleagues that she wanted to be the next Annie Sullivan (the woman who taught the blind and deaf Helen Keller language).

At first, Genie made a lot of progress. She learned how to dress herself and use the toilet in three days. In a few months, she had a vocabulary of over 100 words, although her vocalizations were hard to understand.

However, after five years of research the “Genie Team” lost funding from a research grant  from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) because the research was disorganized and was not yielding results. Genie had been living with one of the doctors on the “Genie Team,” Dr. David Rigler, but he ended his care.

Genie’s mother sued the “Genie Team” for their exhaustive research. Genie lived with her mother for awhile, but eventually her mother could no longer support her. She moved from foster home to foster home. In one foster home, Genie was beaten for vomiting. She did not open her mouth for months afterwards. Genie is now in a home for retarded adults, with no contact with any of her former doctors.

Studying Genie was supposed to teach doctors about nature vs. nurture, the critical period of development, and language acquisition. However, the true lesson from her tragic case is that there is an ethical dilemma in studying people like Genie. Sometimes, Genie’s care came second to research (as her mother claimed); however, sometimes the research came second to caring for Genie (as the scientists at NIMH claimed). How much research is too much research? Is a case like Genie’s too important to go unstudied? Can psychologists both treat cases like Genie and conduct research?

For more information, here is an official “Genie Team” report (it’s long but details her linguistic development). I also recommend the PBS documentary Secret of the Wild Child which has video of Genie working with the research team. It’s interesting to see video of Genie because though she struggled with language and never learned grammar, she was very gifted at expressing herself non-verbally.