The inauguration of America’s first African-American president has captured the imagination of students and educators with an intensity that surpasses previous ceremonies, and schools from New Hampshire to Florida to California are working to bring the excitement and pageantry, the sheer history of it all, to life in the classroom, reports the New York Times. After millions of students watch Barack Obama take the presidential oath on television, some will recite poetry, many will hear brass bands play patriotic music, and not a few will debate whether Obama’s oratory equaled the eloquence of John F. Kennedy. "We are totally committed to reading, writing, science, and history," said Linda Lane, deputy superintendent of instruction in Pittsburgh. "But we also know that some history doesn’t come out of a book. Some history you get to be part of." Karen Rusche, principal of Our Lady of Lourdes, a Catholic school in Cincinnati, decided that the inaugural was of such historic import that her eighth graders would interrupt a spiritual retreat to watch it on TV. "We don’t want to see it on a rerun," Rusche said. "We want to be witnesses to the historical moment." Educators in Chicago, Obama’s hometown, might be among the most enthusiastic. Like many school districts nationwide, Chicago produced a lengthy guide to help teachers tailor instruction to the inauguration, with suggestions for essay themes, debate topics, and letter writing. Arne Duncan, the Chicago schools chief whom Obama has nominated to be secretary of education, sent a memorandum introducing the guide to the city’s teachers. "Barack Obama has captivated Chicago students’ interest in democracy," he said. "As educators, we cannot let this teaching opportunity pass us by."

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