Nov 22 2011
By Ethan Rothstein
GEORGETOWN -- U.S. Sen. Tom Carper visited Georgetown Middle School on Monday afternoon to talk with seventh-graders, fielding questions from students on a wide array of topics, from job creation to offshore wind farms to immigration.
The students, who are learning about the U.S. Constitution, had two weeks to prepare questions for Carper, and didn't lob him any softballs. Other topics students brought up ranged from the Occupy Wall Street movement to the health care reform bill's future in the Supreme Court.
"They were great questions," Carper said afterward. "I'm always pleasantly surprised how our seventh-graders, at this point in time, they've studied the Constitution, they've got a pretty good idea about who their elected officials are and what they do."
Principal Michael Williams said he was proud of how informed his students' questions were, citing the school's curriculum, which stresses connecting history and social studies to current events.
"They've worked hard studying Delaware government and the Constitution, and they were very happy when they figured out they had the opportunity for Sen. Carper to actually come here and visit them," Williams said. "That made the work harder and (made them) motivated (in) preparing questions for him."
Social studies teacher Jennifer Read organized the visit, which included free copies of the Constitution for the dozens of students in attendance. She said the students needed some coaching, which mostly included helping them write down their questions.
"The first 15 minutes of every period is current events, to get kids paying attention to the news," Read said.
"When something came up that was topical and timely, we wrote it down. We narrowed it down to about a dozen that kids talked about in class that weren't the Constitution, because that's pretty dry."
Mya Johnson, a student in Read's class, asked a question that is very near and dear to Carper's heart.
"I asked why is Delaware the only state without a national park," she said. "It's weird how we're the only state that does not have a national park."
Tyler Phillips asked about one of the hottest topics in national political news, the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"I asked, 'we need jobs in Sussex County, but we don't act like Occupy Wall Street people, what's up with that?' " he said. "People in New York are all frustrated."
Carper seemed thrilled to answer questions on all topics, even the touchy ones, like illegal immigration -- to which he replied, "our focus should be on protecting our borders" -- and said he's visited every school in Delaware because he loves that interaction.
"Bring it on, bring it on, I'll handle them," he said of the questions. "One of the most important things we do in our country is prepare the next generation of young people for jobs. We want them to be successful, so I love to be in schools, they're fun."