Friday, July 17, 2009

This is Paperless Teaching, too...

What a few days.

Two days ago I was in Memphis. Visited the National Civil Rights Museum and was completely unprepared for what I saw. I had actually not even looked up any info about the building before arriving, but rather went totally blind as to what we'd be experiencing.

And how overwhelming it was.

Earlier in the day, my boys and I had visited Sun Studios. Everything about Sun is cool; from Elvis and the Killer to Johnny Cash and B.B. King and 'Angel of Harlem'-era U2. Totally got chills in the joint. The boys were mostly interested in the merch, so we duly picked up an xtra-large t-shirt for daddy and a few pins for their caps.

Next up was a stroll across Beale Street for lunch and some conversation with the Memphis folks. An electric blues band was shaking it down in the park and the sun was like sandpaper across yr face. After lunch, we walked over to the Gibson Guitars factory; we were too late for a tour, but I did get to check out a few custom Hummingbirds (if any of you blog subscribers want to make a blogger happy, you now know exactly what I want for Christmas).

My wife had mentioned visiting the Civil Rights Museum and we asked a panhandler where we could find it. He gave us directions and walked us part way there before trailing off.

We actually doubled back to get the car before proceeding, it was wicked hot and the kids (and me) needed some air.

The Memphis heat actually added to the depth of what we saw next.

We came across the building from what I think was it's eastern facade which is just basically a brick wall. So I had no idea what we were in for. But, coming around the bend, the first thing you see is the sign.

The sign of the Lorraine Motel.

As you bend around the brick wall, it gives way to the physical remains of the motel where MLK was shot. Two cars sit in the parking lot; a wreath marks the place where King fell.

I totally lost it. So many thoughts stopped in my mind and I was totally in the moment.

And then I heard the voice of one of my boys: "Is that where Martin Luther King was shot?"

"Yes," my wife replied.

This is another form of paperless education. It's the education of architecture, place, experience, and shared memory.

And it really makes me all that much more convinced that we've gotta go mobile.

- Posted from the San Antonio, TX convention center (where they have incredible folks who actually roam around the halls and make sure Wi-Fi is working for the bloggers!)


  1. I felt a similar sense of place at the point in Canterbury Cathedral where Thomas á Becket was murdered.

    And at the spot on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where King delivered the "I have a dream" speech.

    And in Ford's Theater.

    And. And. And.

    Maybe we can put a school bus on wheels.

  2. Maybe we can put a school in a bus, is what I meant. A school that travels around and studies American history coast to coast.

  3. You and andrewbwatt are right on. All subjects, but especially history, is better in person.

    I stood in the road on an X in Dallas next to the grassy knoll. I looked out the window on the 6th floor of the book depository. I listened to a 20 lecture on the corner by a conspiracy theorist. I wish I would have had my video camera for that one.

    Then I read two books on the subject.

    You gotta see it, be there, feel it and witness the intensity from the people around you. It just doesn't compare to a text book.

  4. I actually got to view the memorial this spring. It is an amazing experience, and there is so much information presented at this museum. It is really too bad that not everyone will get a chance to see it, virtually just doesn't cut it.

    I mean getting a chance to see what the room that they stayed in, and the "spot" (although it's removed) where he was shot is just something you can't translate to online or into words.


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