Brittney Burns –Staff Writer
Franklin High School history teacher John deVille travelled to the nation’s capital last week to attend a mock hearing held by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. After returning to Franklin, deVille turned to his students to employ the lessons he learned into the classroom.
DeVille’s invitation to the White House came a couple of weeks after he joined social studies and civics teachers from across the country in signing a letter to all senators on the Judiciary Committee asking for a confirmation hearing for Judge Garland, as they have historically done. After signing the letter, the White House invited National Educators Association to DC to lobby senators, to participate in a mock hearing, and to meet with Valerie Jarrett, the senior advisor to President Obama.
DeVille, along with the group comprised of civics, history and social studies teachers traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver a message to U.S. Senate leaders that their students know well: failing to do your work has consequences. The group expressed concern that by refusing to vote or hold a hearing on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, the teachers are having difficulty teaching the roles and rules of government.
“The common theme from teachers was our students’ exceptional cynicism towards politics in general and Ms. Jarrett counseled us to take back hopeful messages to our respective classrooms, encouraging them to get involved in the process,” said deVille. “The meeting gave Ms. Jarrett and the White House yet one more substantive argument as to why the hearings should be held now.”
The group represented states from across the country whose lobbying efforts all had the same intent, “to lobby Senators from our respective states to ask them to hold the confirmation hearings for Judge Garland,” said deVille. “I met with the legislative assistants for Senator Tillis and Senator Burr. I asked them why they could not hold confirmation hearings for Judge Garland since hearings have always been held for Supreme Court nominees in the last year of a president’s term. The responses I received were polite but were basically of the nature, “this is the position Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has staked out and that’s what we are doing … at least until November, and then we’ll see.””
To gain perspective on the hearing process, something that deVille gave a full debriefing to his students about, the group also participated in a mock hearing on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “They convened four witnesses who testified to Judge Garland’s exceptional integrity and jurisprudential intellect,” explained deVille. “Most striking to me was the testimony of Judge Timothy Lewis. He made a point of informing the committee that even though he had had strong disagreements with Judge and now Justice Samuel Alito, that he, Lewis, had testified on his behalf during his confirmation hearings because he deserved to be confirmed because (a) that was President Bush’s choice and he was eminently qualified.”
Meeting with Jarrett at the White House was something deVille believes helped give the Obama Administration additional perspective on the importance of holding a hearing for Judge Garland.
“Ms. Jarrett wanted to solicit the input of social studies teachers from across the nation. There were 12 of us; nine from National Education Association, my union, and three teachers from the American Federation of Teachers,” he explained. “She was particularly interested in what our students were saying. As she went around the table to solicit our individual stories, I mentioned that I had taught a lesson on the topic last Monday. After my students had reviewed the pertinent portions of the Constitution, pro and con articles from Real Clear Politics, and articles on historical precedent. While a few students saw the political advantage in not having the hearings and others saw that there was no express deadline for hearings, there was overwhelming consensus in all three classes that the hearings should be held and that politics should not play a role.”