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Former history teacher returns for SPEC presentation

Jermaine Thibodeaux addressed the current political climate in his talk.

Gray Bertuccio

Jermaine Thibodeaux addressed the current political climate in his talk.

Lily McCullough and Leila Pulaski

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Laughter echoed through the Chao Room, which was so packed that latecomers lined the walls after all the seats had been filled, as former seventh grade history teacher Jermaine Thibodeaux opened a discussion in his typical fashion by joking with the students.

Thibodeaux returned to St. John’s for a speech about Confederate monuments in the context of the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. The presentation was organized by the Student Political Education Club. SPEC leaders Jackson Edwards and Jack Trent, both juniors, reached out to the former U.S. history teacher after finding out through Facebook that he was back in Houston.

“[Mr. Thibodeaux] was a very charismatic middle school teacher who impacted a lot of the students he taught,” Edwards said.

In his speech, Thibodeaux noted his belief that the controversy about removing Confederate monuments comes down to a misunderstanding of the Civil War and Reconstruction as well as modern racial tensions in the United States.

Gray Bertuccio
Thibodeaux opened the floor to student questions.

 

“Mr. Thibodeaux’s standpoint is interesting because it’s not taking a stance, but it is reminding everyone that these are issues, and we need to know the history behind them before passing any judgement,” junior Camila Sabisky said.

Thibodeaux stated his belief that the recent increase in efforts to remove or change Confederate monuments is a result of individuals who do not agree with the current political climate and are looking for some small way to make a change.

“It is more important to know the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction fully and completely than to topple monuments,” Thibodeaux said.

Thibodeaux opened the floor for discussion, allow students to hear the varying perspectives and opinions of their peers, which he considers incredibly important. Civil discourse was a core element of both the classes he taught and his speech. He reminded attending students that they must learn how to communicate with people who have views and perspectives different from their own.

Thibodeaux commends students on their curiosity and interest in controversial topics since such conversations are less common among high school students.

Gray Bertuccio
The room was packed with students from all grade levels.

“It is very flattering [to be invited to speak], but I think it’s just another testament that students here constantly crave knowledge,” Thibodeaux said. “They constantly are seeking to have tough and difficult conversations.”

Edwards echoed the appreciation for respecting the opinion of others. Edwards said that Thibodeaux gave each student enough information to make up their own mind without trying to sway them one way or another, which is the main mission of SPEC. Many SPEC members also participate in the Young Conservatives or Young Liberals clubs, but SPEC sets itself apart because it is non-partisan.

“SPEC has taken the party out of the politics, so people can look at different issues and make their own decisions,” Edwards said.

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The official student newspaper of St. John's School..
Former history teacher returns for SPEC presentation