History Has Its Eyes On Us

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History Has Its Eyes On Us

Tyler Palma, Staff Writer

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Room 237 was the room where it almost happened.

Over three years ago, Mr. Simone, a social studies teacher at Floral Park Memorial, had heard about an off-Broadway play at The Public Theater titled Hamilton. With four Advanced Placement classes that year, he thought it would be a great opportunity to embark on a historical field trip while also exposing them to the theater. So what went wrong?

“The play was only being performed on Sunday and I didn’t think enough students would be interested,” said a dejected Mr. Simone. “It turned out to be the greatest regret in my career.”

In August of 2015, Hamilton opened its doors on Broadway at the Richard Rogers Theatre, where playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda also had his previous Tony Winning Show In The Heights in 2005. The show has been a tourist attraction and lasting phenomenon since its debut, and its popularity has actually only increased since. I had a similar story to Mr. Simone, when a friend approached me inquiring if I wanted to see a rap musical about Alexander Hamilton when it was still at The Public Theater. I looked at him and firmly replied, “no.” Tickets at that time were $35, impossible to believe considering one can’t get near the theater now for under $200. I am actually too embarrassed to admit how much it eventually cost for me to see this remarkable show.

The success of Hamilton has been unbelievable. Students across the country are learning about this Founding Father and his impact on the American economy at a vulnerable time, following the American Revolution. Mr. Simone, like many social studies teachers, uses the songs from the musical to help students understand the significance of this time period in American history. While it might seem simplistic to those who have not heard the soundtrack, the lyrics and dialogue, combined with the musical score (with allusions to songs by Tupac and Biggie), using the songs helps motivate students to learn about the history. Songs like “What’d I Miss” illustrate how Thomas Jefferson’s return from France to the United States assisted in the building of the new form of government.

But the enthusiasm for Hamilton is not universal among students.

“For the past three years, I have definitely encountered students who simply do not think the musical is that great,” said Mr. Simone. “I have ever heard the word overrated used to describe it.”

The passion that students have for Hamilton, however, it not waning. I credit the musical with my knowledge about the American Revolution and the years of the early republic. I do think that the more young people are exposed to Hamilton, the more they will actually appreciate this work of genius.

Hamilton’s effect in the classroom will continue for years to come. Juniors in New York City public schools, for example, have been invited to a matinee performance once a week for the past two years. As this years juniors at Floral Park Memorial prepares to learn about Alexander Hamilton, all I ask is that you give it a chance. Then, you will understand the first line of this article.