Matt Cone’s classes at Carrboro High School are known for their interesting subject matter, immersive projects and field trips. But one class took it to the next level to try and convince former Secretary of State John Kerry to speak to their class.
Cone said he first asked Kerry at an event. But as it turns out, after someone leaves a government position, Cone said they can be pretty tricky to track down.
“So within the last two weeks the students sent chocolate-covered strawberries to his house; they wrote him letters; they made videos,” he said. “We made like 30 videos about, ‘How do we make facts matter more in politics?’ And last week on a field trip, 19 students knocked on his door in Georgetown.”
One of these methods worked because Kerry Skyped with the class Wednesday. He spoke to a classroom full of students from Cone’s class, students from other classes, other teachers and parents.
“With this quantity of letters and amount of invitations I got, you guys made it impossible for me to say no,” Kerry said. “I’m super impressed. Why don’t you have the same effect on your senators and congressmen?”
Jokes aside, Kerry answered students’ questions about things like global markets.
“If we can do a better job taming the downside,” he said. “Preparing for job dislocation and creating new jobs, and doing other things, certainly the markets of the future are going to be global.”
He also answered questions and opened a discussion about the fake news phenomena, in which false news articles are linked to Facebook so that they’ll spread rapidly.
Facebook recently added a feature to report fake news, but Kerry said it’s important that the feature doesn’t encroach upon censorship of regular news articles.
“We shouldn’t ever allow people to be shut down,” he said. “You have to control violence, obviously, you want to prevent violence, and all those kinds of measures that can be taken to prevent that, but you don’t want to prevent a speaker altogether. When that starts to happen in America, we start to lose something.”
He said the most important thing for the class to remember is that those high school students are the future of the country, and they should understand that if they don’t like something about the government, they should speak up.
“Our governance in America is troubled right now, folks,” Kerry said. “I’ve got to be honest with you. I’m troubled by it. I spent 28 years in the United States Senate and I’m proud that I went there and I’m proud of the work I did there, but I’m not proud of the senate right now.”
Cone said this was an important opportunity for his students, and says they worked hard to prepare insightful, well-articulated questions.
“The specter of having to talk to John Kerry meant that they did a lot of research, they didn’t want to seem dumb,” he said. “So, you were there and they exhibited about three percent of the things that they knew. But that process of getting so excited to impress somebody who knows so much, that’s really rewarding. And I think he was very generous in praising the students and all that, so that’s got to feel really good.”