Youngsters learn through virtual visit
Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum sponsors history lesson
One man talked about how he learned to play baseball, football and card games while dealing with the internment that defined the early years of his life. He saw hundreds of kids his age during a normal day, and they used sports to get through those difficult times.
Another man talked about how he got married there. Several people spoke of what they did with their lives after the internment.
But a lot of children asked questions on a variety of subjects, both simple and complex, interesting and unusual and always probing and curious. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, The National Park Foundation and Ball State University connected to teach a history lesson on Tuesday, joining together to connect over 20 million children and people from across the country in a simultaneous virtual visit to the Manzanar National Historic Site, a memorial to the Japanese Americans who were there during World War II.
Millions of kids from around the United States were virtually connected in an Electronic Field Trip that featured tours of sites that mixed with in-class activities with questions that a variety of experts were ready to answer. The Manzanar: Desert Diamonds Behind Barbed Wire program was possible through funding from The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's funding.
The Electronic Field Trips are a signature program of Ball State University and taught what amounted to a live, on-air history lesson.
"The Baseball Hall of Fame is proud to participate in its sixth Electronic Field Trip with Ball State University," said Dale Petroskey, museum president. "To be joined by the National Park Foundation in exploring the compelling and little-known story of baseball in the Japanese American internment camps of World War II is both a privilege and a fitting collaboration, featuring three of America's most respected educational institutions."
The Manzanar National Historic Site is located just east of Fresno, Calif., and was made to preserve stories dealing with the internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II and to serve as a reminder of how easily civil liberties can be lost. Tuesday's program was largely a simultaneous virtual visit to the site.
Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne joined the show on a snowy morning from Murch Elementary School in Washington, D.C. He was with a group of about 25 students who took part in the live telecast.
Kempthorne told those participating how, as Governor of Idaho, he knew an internment camp that had been in place and wanted to keep the memory of that alive.
"I invited people to my office as a reminder that it must never happen again," he said during the broadcast.
Murch principal Carolyne Albert-Garvey and fifth-grade teachers also took part in the virtual tour. The Secretary then administered the Junior Ranger pledge to the Murch students after the program.
Jeff Arnett is the Director of Education and Programming at the Hall of Fame and served as one of the moderators for the show, standing in the obviously chilly and windy Manzanar site wearing an old Cardinals jersey.
The show gave many details about the internment situations, and what many of the Japanese Americans had to go through in a number of different ways.
For example, every single person who was released from the camp got $25 and a one-way ticket. The camps closed in 1945 after World War II ended, but the United States tried to do something for those camps about 43 years later when then-President Ronald Reagan issued a formal apology and ordered surviving internees receive $20,000.
"We must recognize that the internment of Japanese Americans was just that, a mistake," Reagan said that day.
The 60-minute program taught those watching and participating about the experience, how people got through it and dealt with it. That's why this show proved to be a valuable history lesson.
"The partnership between the National Park Foundation and Ball State University's Electronic Field Trips program is giving millions of children a unique opportunity to learn about what life was like for many Japanese Americans during their time at Manzanar during World War II," said Ball State president Jo Ann M. Gora. "With a focus on internment-era baseball, this innovative use of interactive technology allows viewers to see and hear first-hand, some fascinating stories from Manzanar."
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.