BY GRIFFIN SCIARRA
The Seymour High School bus lobby was bustling well after the 8:30 a.m. tone that signifies the start of the school day March 31.
Speech teacher Tim Perry’s two classes were packed into a school bus and whisked to Indiana University in Bloomington for a day of wholesome learning that incorporated an in-depth discussion led by associate professor John Arthos.
Once the speech students filed into Room 304 in Ballantine Hall, Arthos led the speech students in an activity on values as they relate to persuasion. The speech students were guinea pigs for the activity, as Arthos had never performed the interactive activity with his students before.
Arthos’ activity was based on a small article by author Jason Torchinsky that discussed value systems associated with the type of vehicle a person drives. The article contradicted the idea that driving a minivan depicts the owner as “giving up.” Torchinsky claimed that the “cool” perception of crossover vehicles is a complete fabrication devised by marketing departments. He implored people, “Drive what you want.”
Arthos permitted students to call out different values associated with vans and crossover vehicles. Although the students were seemingly daunted by their situation at first, Arthos made it clear he wanted participation in the activity, and the students’ shyness soon melted away.
The lighthearted and sometimes comical take on “minivan stigma” encouraged contribution.
Students were soon toting signs that read the values they called out earlier in the activity. The group of students with signs that related to van characteristics like pragmatic, purposeful and boxy surrounded Perry, who was acting as the van. And the group of students with signs related to crossover characteristics like stylish, trendy and conspicuous surrounded guidance counselor William Harmon, who acted as the crossover.
The apex of the activity occurred when Arthos, wearing a headpiece that read “SUV,” relieved Perry and Harmon from their positions and connected the two separate groups of students.
Arthos climbed a chair and proclaimed, “The sole purpose of the lesson is to reconfigure our mindsets. As a society, we are often belonging to separate camps who keep to themselves. We as human beings have the capability to combine or at least converse seemingly separate value systems.”
Students shuffled out of Room 304 with much more on their mind than what they would order at Mother Bear’s Pizza.
Senior Jackson Morris left the activity feeling considerably more open-minded.
“The things Arthos was saying were really eye-opening,” Morris said. “I think people accept things far too often in today’s world. So many times, we take things at face value, and from birth, we label things as cool or uncool without really exploring things for ourselves.”
Senior Cecily Coffman was grateful for the opportunity to see IU in the particular capacity she did.
“Today’s experience gave me a better college student perspective than my campus tour because I got to participate in an actual class given by a college professor,” she said. “I was expecting us to be in a huge lecture hall that usually sits hundreds of students. We were in a similar size classroom as one at the high school. The professor made learning the lesson fun by letting us interact.”
Perry said he enjoyed letting his speech students take in a day at his alma mater.
“My goal is for my students to realize that college should be an attainable goal,” he said.
Perry’s speech course is accepted as Ivy Tech Community College credit as well as COMM 101 at IU.
“I also hope to discover, as I usually do with trips like this with English and speech classes, that a lot of what we do in class is similar to material in college classes,” he said.
At the end of the day, Perry was gracious for the opportunity to offer the experience to his students and thanked Arthos repeatedly.
Perry was connected to Arthos by a former professor, Robert Terrill. Terrill was the instructor for Speech 210 when Perry was completing graduate work at IU.
Perry said he wants to make a habit of taking his students to IU to experience the school in a classroom setting.
Griffin Sciarra is a senior at Seymour High School. He is a staff member of the student newspaper, The Owl. Send comments to [email protected].