Thursday, February 14, 2002

Class focus is military history

By Anna Guido
Enquirer Contributor

        SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP — On Feb. 4, a U.S. Hellfire missile fired from an unmanned Predator surveillance drone hit a suspected convoy of al-Qaida leaders in remote eastern Afghanistan.

   • Military weapons: Today's M-16 rifle fires 20 shots in two seconds. The main weapon of the Revolutionary War was a smooth-bore musket that fired three shots per minute.
    • Medical care: The phrase “bite the bullet” originated during the Revolutionary War. Without anesthetics, doctors often gave soldiers a bullet to bite during an amputation or other painful procedure.
    • Leadership: One of the greatest military leaders in U.S. history was Cmdr. George Rogers Clark, who won the Battle for Vincennes during the Revolutionary War. In the battle, Clark secured the Northwest Territory, a vast tract north of the Ohio River, south of Canada, west of Pennsylvania and east of the Mississippi River.
        Three days later, in suburban Sycamore Township, the incident served as a prime example of the impact of weaponry in international warfare.

        For 28 years, Doug Gausmann, 53, has been using current military events to make history come alive for his American Military History students at Sycamore High School.

        “With a war going on, it's good for this class because it helps me bring in more up-to-date comparisons,” Mr. Gausmann said.

        The military history elective is offered to seniors only and focuses solely on war. It is one of a few such classes offered in the state, Sycamore officials say.

        (Lakota Local School District in Butler County offers a similar course at its high schools.)

        “Whenever possible, I try to tie historical examples into current events,” Mr. Gausmann said. “When you use actual examples of today, it's a much more effective method of getting the point across.”

        Courses like Mr. Gausmann's could become the norm as Ohio writes its first academic content standards and aligns them with new achievement and graduation tests.

        The call for academic content standards comes from the school reform movement sweeping the nation, as well as public opinion in Ohio that has identified greater need for clarity in what students should know and be able to do, said Donna Nesbitt, a social studies consultant with the Ohio Department of Education.

        “Military history is certainly a topic students would be interested in now because they can relate it to current events,” Ms. Nesbitt said. “Whenever students can make connections between history and current events, it makes learning more interesting.”

        Mr. Gausmann has been teaching at Sycamore for 31 years.

        “I've always been interested in history and felt that there just wasn't enough time in the regular survey class to cover the wars,” Mr. Gausmann said. “Wars are an important part of American history.”

        The course covers four units:

        • The American Revolution.

        • Civil War.

        • World War II.

        • Korean War to today.

        “Vietnam was just ending when I started the course,” Mr. Gausmann said. “Then there was the Persian Gulf and now Afghanistan.”

        Enrollment averages 22 to 27 students. The class is offered twice a year and always attracts more males than females. Jason Mellman, 18, enrolled after taking a course on American history with Mr. Gausmann.

        “He's just an awesome teacher,' Jason said.

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