Ceres High U.S. history classes got an eye-popping, hip-hopping look into the lives of the founding fathers through a grant connected to the musical “Hamilton.”
One big takeaway: The founding mothers got no respect.
Juniors Natasha Samra, Emily Campidonica and Krishma Malhotra used that theme in creating their own poetic tribute to early-day wives, begun and ended with, “All men are created equal.”
“It struck me that every woman I looked up was defined as who their husband was, who they were married to. I found it interesting their work and what they did isn’t necessarily noted in history,” Campidonica said.
It struck me that every woman I looked up was defined as who their husband was, who they were married to.
It was one of dozens of points that brought the olden days to life for this up-coming generation, which was the point of the Hamilton Education Program, awarded to Ceres High this year.
“We think of the founding fathers as perfect people, but they’re really just like us,” said history teacher Derrick Saenz-Payne on Thursday as the class discussed what they had learned.
“I always had a passion for the founding fathers and everything they’ve done. Especially (Alexander) Hamilton and (French Gen. Marquis de) Layfayette. They were two people in my life and some of my friends lives – their stories just reached out to us,” said Jessi Gonzalez. “It’s kind of cool that you can relate a lot of the things that happened 200-plus years ago to things that are happening today.”
Gonzalez was a Hamilton soundtrack groupie, she said, introducing Saenz-Payne to the music that put a rhythm to the hardscrabble backstory of one of America’s heroes.
“This one we had to go a lot further in-depth so we learned a lot more, so we were actually interested in it. We got more done. It was a lot more fun and interesting,” said Spencer Nelson.
Students had to read these complex documents, written in this 200-year-old language, where one sentence is a paragraph with a bunch of commas.
Brian Becerra said he learned how to take notes looking for key phrases instead of using a highlighter to cover whole swaths of an online page.
“Students had to read these complex documents, written in this 200-year-old language, where one sentence is a paragraph with a bunch of commas,” Saenz-Payne said. “It taught them how to go through and pull out key words that are meaningful. And if you understand the words, you can piece together the message.”
Reading the original writings gave a sense of people’s characters, said Daniel Rodriguez, “You could kind of predict what they were going to say or what they would have said in certain scenarios by seeing their personality in their style of writing.”
But, students said, they wanted more. The more they learned, the more questions they had, a fast-moving conversation over President George Washington’s decision to end his public life showed.
“I wish they would have shown why he wanted to leave,” said David Ruelas. “The reason he wanted to leave was he wanted his own life, but it was also because he didn’t agree with the government.”
Teachers used Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History supplemental materials, available at the Hamilton Education Program website, and 103 students attended a performance of Hamilton at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. The program is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.