On Tues. November 15, the AP European History class and a select number of History Club members gathered at Barnes and Noble in the Southlake Town Square dressed as eighteenth century thinkers, scientist and monarchs. Although the students drank Starbucks coffee, they remained in character all night, acting as anyone from King Louis XIV of France to Mary Wollstonecraft. This was the Timber Creek third annual Enlightenment Salon.
Student Haley Price, who participated as Voltaire while wearing a giant wig, said, “It’s a bunch of history nerds all nerding out, but it’s extremely mentally challenging as well.”
Students in the two AP European history classes have learned about principles and key players in the Enlightenment era. For the Salon, they chose a philosophical or scientific characters from the era and arrived in costumes in accordance to their figure, with students in wigs and beards, rented dresses and even bathrobes. The students took both heated and humorous approaches on Enlightenment topics, from the good or evil nature of man, to the existence and role of god and even age-old takes on the events of 2016 — like the recent presidential election. The discussion were student guided with teacher and sponsor Ben Metcalf supervising and directing the conversation.
“It’s a lot more fun than a typical classroom,” said Price. “ Before the discussion, I read one of Voltaire’s books and researched a lot of his quotes and philosophies on the internet. It gave me the opportunity to really get inside the thinker’s head.”
Metcalf has conducted numerous salons, both in his years at Timber Creek and before. The purpose of holding the event is to recreate the salon atmosphere common during the Enlightenment era, when thinkers would gather in parlors and hotels to discuss advanced topics like ones listed above. Each year, random men and women have been captivated by students discussing such advanced topics, some even joining in or snapping pictures. One year, the event was even covered by CNN. This year, the salon was even broadcasted via Skype to a student friend in Ohio.
TCHS Freshman Alli Ulery was there to witness the discussion, although she was not part of the class or the additional History Club members. After hearing the student conversations, she expressed, “It looks like a really fun class, I’d like to take it over my next couple years at Timber Creek.”
Overall, it was both a learning and a bonding experience for the students. From philosophical debates to an AP Euro mannequin challenge, students and viewers were enlightened.
“I would like for people to realize that we’re doing some really cool things in public education,” Price concluded. “Students are still interested in deep discussions on these really advanced topics. Our generation isn’t lost.”