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Danny in Junior High School (Grades 7-9): 1960-1963

DannyThese important events take place during the junior high school years:

  1. An exciting Presidential campaign is covered nationally on television as is a national tragedy.
  2. Kansas celebrates its statehood Centennial.
  3. Danny enters a secondary school, grades 7 – 12, and it houses a school library, a print shop and a school newspaper.
  4. Instructional media specialists emerge from school teachers.

Questioning and Exploration

Danny enters junior high school at a very exciting time. The 1960 Presidential Campaign involved two candidates who represented to their respective supporters a new beginning for the nation. A fresh start in science, education and human rights all seemed possible in the coming decade.

JKF - LOC Prints and Photographs DivisionThe black and white television in Danny’s home carries detailed news coverage of the nomination conventions and eventually the election results, late into the night. It is fascinating to see numbers posted immediately, analysis offered and results projected.

Three years later, this same medium managed by the same reporters would cover what many believe to be one of the worst days in American history when a young President is shot in Dallas. Information validation and misinformation were managed in real time. Images told more than words and emotions were difficult to hide. It seemed that conflict was ripe to emerge again. Many could only speculate, “if only some small thing had happened differently to change things.” History is not, however, learning how to wish for a different set of events, but learning how to not repeat the same mistakes in the future. That concept, however, Danny would find hard to see as one that was applied by those in national leadership over the next two decades.

1961 is the Kansas Centennial. The local celebration is based on an original pageant. Visiting artists are commissioned to compose music, research and write scripts, and others in the community volunteer to make costumes and sets for the extravaganza at the local fair grounds. The event is a reflection of community creativity. Danny plays in the band, marches in the parade, and portrays a pioneer. Danny is amazed at the number of people who can become involved in such a local community celebration.

American HeritageThe school environment changes for Danny in the 1960s. He enters a junior high school that includes a school library. It is well stocked with a wide variety of materials for all secondary grade levels. Access to resources is encouraged and there are few restrictions for loan of books or periodicals. The entire collection of American Heritage is available for Danny or any other student to read individual volumes without asking for retrieval from back room storage. Danny borrows several each week simply for his reading pleasure. He concentrates on diagrams and maps.

The librarian, Miss Viets, also teaches library skills, lectures in the history classes and directs senior independent study. She encourages reading and information exploration by learning individual student interests and constantly brings new books to the students’ attention. She sponsors several student activities, including student government. Miss Viets is able to find ways to engage students in conversations about their interests, future plans, academic strengths and weaknesses and reading preferences. She chairs curriculum meetings and is widely respected by other teachers. She is clearly an instructional media specialist ahead of her time.

Danny’s combination junior and senior high school also contains vocational education for students from seventh grade to the senior year. Eventually he will attend classes in the emerging technologies of commercial printing as well as courses in journalism. Activities are hands-on and practical. History and literature classes are demanding and supported Danny’s eventual choice to be in college preparatory along with some vocational training classes.

A new reading teacher, Mrs. Wolfe, enters Danny’s school career in junior high school. She stocks her room wall-to-wall with paperbacks and freely loans as many as a student could carry (it seemed). These books covered a wide range of stories, fiction and nonfiction. Biographies and sports stories are plentiful and meet the interests of the many boys in the class. Much of class time involved reading aloud, but a great deal of time was invested in talking about what was read individually at home. Danny and other students wanted to read more in order to have more to say in class. Stories based on historical events and others on different cultures of the world opened interactions in small group literature circles. Discussions were on adventures, places and events not imagined before.

Danny was placed in Mrs. Wolfe’s special reading class for two more years. By his freshman year he was moved to the “advanced” English classes. But the best reward was how Mrs. Wolfe engaged literature of all types with students at all levels. Danny and his classmates were encouraged to debate, oppose, question or defend what was read. Mrs. Wolfe seemed to believe that each student has a personal experience to bring to any reading and that text did not become meaningful until there was an attempt to assimilate the text with the experience. Assimilation did not always mean acceptance. Many times meaning came from rejection of the text, and telling why.

New questions began to form at this stage of Danny’s schooling. Questions he would not have considered earlier and questions he was not certain he should raise.

It seems that people in different cultures share the same hopes and dreams. Why does there continue to be conflict and why can’t humans show more tolerance toward each other?

McLuhanSuch questions for an adolescent are not unusual. They illustrate the mixed transition from personal emotional questions to an emerging awareness that there is a world outside of self.

As a student “information scientist” Danny is beginning to raise questions concerning the ways information in a mass media society define how personalities and events are perceived. Although not to the stage of grasping the concept, he is starting to wonder if information presented transforms reality as much as is may not represent reality to begin with. Emerging telecommunication mass media can place Danny in the middle of an historical event as it happens. This brings conflict and confusion from the wider world into the home. Which is real? What is real? When is it real? In short, and in line with a creative take on emerging communications of the mid-1960s from Marshall McLuhan (http://www.marshallmcluhan.com/ ), “The medium is the message.”

Assimilation & Inference

Danny has become immersed in different cultures and new adventures through the expanding literature introduced to him by his new reading teacher. He is encouraged to explore many information formats not available to him before. Danny has access to a vast array of reading resources, fact and fiction, in formats appealing to his age group. Magazines and paperback books abound. He is invited to explore these materials at a time of historic change and emerging turmoil. He is an adolescent in a quickly changing world of electronic and visual communication that often expects him to consider events and opinions he is not mature enough to handle. Assimilation is often difficult. Inference is often wrong.

Danny demonstrates assimilation of new information through his essays, small group discussions, posters and displays. Favorite books are clustered around themes or challenging questions that do not have clear answers, if any answers at all. Other books are classified to match cultures, biographies, and adventures. Questions and answers are more clearly illustrated through drawings, photographs, and brief written descriptions of different cultural beliefs or various achievements of popular personalities. With today’s technologies, Danny would be able to illustrate these information associations through software for mind mapping and webbing.


Danny is moving through normal adolescent changes and is beginning to have a wider perception on the events of the world. Some of this change is because he is maturing and some is because the world is being delivered faster and more graphically than ever before because of new electronic mass communications. In many ways, as good as the new educational environment is for Danny, schools are also caught up in the extensive communications revolution.

Skills. Danny has improved his reading capacity as he consumes several books a month and freely engages in reading circle discussions. He explores resources in the school library and borrows magazines and books for reading pleasure as well as for completion of assignments. He is learning more and more about current events and politics as represented over television. What is portrayed on television does not often match the principles for government and behavior described in textbooks in school.

Scaffolding. Danny seeks out recommendations from his teacher and school librarian for new books and other resources that fit his interests. From time to time he seeks to understand connections between current events and the historical events he hears about in class and reads about in books selected from the school library. It is frustrating, because many events, current and historical, seem unclear and unfair.

Realization. There is a great deal of information to consume, but in school and out of school. There actually are some teachers who will help you. Dealing with the frustrations of the greater world is not something that should consume Danny’s time. Summer baseball and winter basketball offer activities that are more organized and predictable. At least at the end of the game a decision has been made.


Information Literary Standards (Selected from Information Power, AASL, 1998)

Content Standards

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning – Content Knowledge

Developing Education Standards

Times Have Changed

With the advent of the Internet, it's much easier today for a student like Danny to explore alternative perspectives. However with this access comes an increasing need for skills in analysis and evaluation.

An example of exploring conflict in American History with perspectives from five different cultures for the student to read, compare and contrast, and predict outcome can be found at Raid on Deerfield: the Many Stories of 1704 (http://1704.deerfield.history.museum/).

Relevant Resources

EDSITEMENT (http://edsitement.neh.gov/)
EDSITEment offers a treasure trove for teachers, students, and parents searching for high-quality material on the Internet in the subject areas of literature and language arts, foreign languages, art and culture, and history and social studies.

Library of Congress: Learn (http://memory.loc.gov/learn/)
Dozens of teacher, created, classroom tested lesson plans, on topics from U.S. history to civics to literature.

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