Learning to think and express our opinions

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John Stanger

The Weekly Reader and Junior Scholastic were two weekly educational newspapers that the students at Holmes School used in social studies classes, grades 5-8.

I was introduced to the Weekly Reader in the fifth grade. Miss Sauer, our teacher, believed that this periodical would introduce us to both good news reporting and to national/international events. Not only did this paper accomplish these things, it also helped me with reading comprehension, vocabulary development and map and graph reading skills.

For a small subscription fee, we had a great educational tool. We received the paper on Fridays, and Miss Sauer assigned the reading of certain articles for homework. She would give us a test on the readings each Monday. The articles were good, but I was often sidetracked by the crossword puzzles. My love of solving these puzzles has lasted for over 60 years.

When we started seventh grade, our social studies teacher Miss Vykruta had us subscribe to Junior Scholastic Magazine. This periodical was similar to the Weekly Reader, but the articles were more in depth and the study of the articles turned me into a daily newspaper reader.

One of the features I particularly liked was "the debate." The pros and cons of timely events were presented, and Miss Vykruta had us analyze in writing these issues along with reading all of the articles. Since we received the paper each Friday, this was our weekend assignment. Each Monday she tested us on the articles as well as calling on random students to discuss the debate subjects. Listening to and participating in these discussions made me a sharper thinker.

In my family, dinner time was not only the time to eat but also a time to discuss current events. Before my eighth grade year, I was too shy to get involved in these discussions, but I always listened carefully to what was said.

In the seventh and eighth grades, as I have mentioned, I had had enough debate/discussion experience in social studies classes, so one evening in the early fall of 1952 two months before the presidential election, I decided that I would be the voice of opposition. Since my family members were politically conservative, Eisenhower was their favorite as opposed to

Adlai Stevenson.

I wasn't certain how long I would last before being overwhelmed by "more informed" family members, but I gave it a try. During the middle of the discussion, I mentioned that the family should consider Stevenson's views and how they might be more beneficial to our country than those of Eisenhower. Well, after I said that, silence reigned, eyebrows rose and eating ceased, but my grandfather told me to continue.

I finished my comments and no one said a word. I really felt strange. My grandfather asked me if I were pro-Stevenson, and I said that in school I was taught to listen to both sides of an issue before making a decision and that I had no plans on speaking out for either candidate until I knew all of the facts.

In ensuing mealtime discussions, someone always called on me to voice my opinion, which I readily gave. Sometimes I agreed with the majority and at other times I simply stirred the pot.

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