Contemporary Conversations: A Student's Journey

August 30, 2023

Contemporary Conversations: A Student's Journey

In this special episode, Charles Martindell discusses his work as a teacher with Ian Keiffer, his former student and a graduate of the Ashbrook Scholar program, and later law school. 

Discovering the Ashbrook Program 

             Charles, the graduate programs resource manager at Ashbrook, discusses how he discovered the Ashbrook program as a high school teacher. He highlights the transformative impact of the Master of Arts in American history and government (MAG) degree on his teaching methods, emphasizing the shift towards using primary sources. Ian, one of his former students, shares his experience and praises Charles’s teaching, even before the transition to primary sources. They also touch upon the appeal of Ashland University and the Ashbrook teaching style, emphasizing its interdisciplinary approach that weaves together various subjects like world history, economics, politics, and religion, making it an attractive choice for students interested in these topics. 

What Makes Ashbrook Special 

             Ian provides his perspective on what makes the Ashbrook program special. He discusses the uniqueness of Ashbrook’s approach, combining politics and economics, which is not commonly found in other institutions. Ian also shares that the program’s strength lies in its ability to connect different threads, creating an interconnected learning experience that covers various aspects, from world history to economics, politics, and religion. This interdisciplinary approach, he believes, is appealing to students who might not have initially been interested in these topics, making Ashbrook a compelling choice for high school seniors making college decisions. 

The Value of a Solid Foundation in Understanding Political Science 

             The conversation centers on the importance of having a strong foundational knowledge in political science and American history. The speaker acknowledges the benefits of learning the basics of the political system and understanding where the country comes from. They emphasize the value of not only knowing what to think but also how to think critically, read, analyze, and form independent conclusions. The speaker advises that pursuing a challenging academic experience, like the one offered by Ashbrook, requires dedication and self-driven learning. They recount their personal experience with reading and how it contributed to their growth. The discussion also touches upon the importance of understanding historical foundations and the ability to evaluate critical theories while considering the historical context. 

The Value of a Comprehensive Education in Law and History 

             The conversation explores the benefits of a comprehensive education, particularly in law and history. The speakers discuss the importance of understanding both sides of an argument and having a nuanced perspective. They highlight how an education that delves into the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects of history equips individuals to engage in meaningful and well-rounded conversations. The value of being able to speak multiple ‘languages’ in the context of law and politics is emphasized, allowing for more fruitful and respectful dialogues, even when differing viewpoints are involved. The speakers also touch on the differences in dynamics between their law school experience and the more high-profile protests seen in some other institutions, concluding that their Midwest law school generally fostered respectful and open discussions. 

Fulfilling Experiences in Constituent Services and Legislative Achievements 

             The conversation touches upon two significant aspects of the speaker’s experience. First, it discusses the role of constituent services in the legislative process and the satisfaction of helping people who are in need and struggling. It highlights the importance of government not only in making laws but also in assisting citizens when things go wrong. The speaker found fulfillment in making a positive impact on people’s lives through their work. Second, it mentions the successful passage of a financial literacy bill by Senator Wilson, a project that had been in the works for several years. This achievement is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the legislative team, and the speaker found it rewarding to witness the bill’s journey from inception to enactment. 

Preparing for Law School and the Role of Mock Trial 

             The conversation discusses the speaker’s journey from high school to law school. It highlights that the speaker’s path was not necessarily a surprise, given their interest in areas like constitutional law and mock trial. The Ashbrook experience introduced the speaker to various career opportunities, including the Legislative Service Commission Fellowship, which expanded their horizons. Mock trial played a crucial role in honing problem-solving skills and preparing them for law school interviews, demonstrating how the skills developed in activities like mock trial can have real-world applications and impact one’s future career choices. 

The Value of the Ashbrook Program 

             The speaker discusses how their experience in mock trial helped them feel more comfortable in uncomfortable situations, such as job interviews. They attribute their ability to remain calm and composed to the problem-solving skills honed in mock trial. The Ashbrook program is praised for preparing individuals for life’s challenges and for fostering essential conversation skills, including listening, understanding, and respectfully engaging with diverse viewpoints. The conversation emphasizes the importance of civil disagreement and finding common ground in today’s polarized political climate. 

The Power of Fiction in Revealing Truths 

             The conversation revolves around the value of fiction, such as the Game of Thrones series, in exploring deep truths about human nature and society. It discusses how well-crafted fiction can realistically depict the consequences of challenging institutions and the complexities of making significant changes in the world. The discussion emphasizes the importance of engaging with uncomfortable truths and the intricate nature of societal change, all while appreciating the power of storytelling to convey these lessons. 

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