Archive for Thursday, June 19, 2008

Local teen headed to D.C.

June 19, 2008

High school student Casey Bear has had a life-long interest in history. Her career goal is to become a high school history teacher and pass on knowledge of historical events to younger generations.

"It's fascinating and interesting what went on in the past and how it can shape the future," said Bear, a senior at Gardner-Edgerton High moved to Baldwin City from Gardner last year. "You have to learn from the lessons of history to make any kind of progress."

And now Bear has transformed her love of history into accolades at the state and national level.

In late April, Bear and three of her classmates won first prize at the Kansas State Historical Society's History Day for a Web site they designed about the life of John Brinkley, a Kansas doctor who, in 1918, claimed he had found a cure for male impotence. Bear and her group will go on to present their Web site at a national competition in Washington. The competition starts today.

Bear, who has never been to Washington D.C. before, said she was excited about the trip.

"It's going to be a great time and we're going to have lots of fun," Bear said.

Once in Washington, the group's Web site will be judged against competitors from across the country. Despite the high level of competition, Bear said she was fairly confident about her group's prospects at the competition.

"I feel pretty good about it, but I'm not sure what the rest of the country will have to offer," Bear said.

Brinkley's cure involved transferring a goat's glands to the reproductive organs of an impotent male. However, the surgery lacked scientific merit and was actually a moneymaking ruse. The Kansas State Medical Board eventually revoked his medical license after his cure led to a string of deaths.

"The cure was just a complete con and it didn't work at all," Bear said. "Any effect it had was just a placebo. It just shows that you shouldn't believe everything you hear."

Although the topic may seem a bit unconventional, Bear said her group had an easy time deciding on it.

"We had lots of topics in mind, but when Brinkley's name came up we just knew that was the right one," Bear said. "We thought his story might just be edgy enough to actually win something. The content was just controversial enough and hilarious enough to pique the interest of the judges."

Bear said her parents, who used to own goats and were familiar with John Brinkley's story, came up with the subject for the competition.

For the competition, groups could choose several different ways to present their research, such as performing a skit or writing a research paper. But Bear said her group didn't have a hard time coming to its decision to do a Web site.

"None of us were in acting so we didn't want to do a skit and a paper just seemed boring, so we decided on doing a Web site," Bear said. "We thought it would be fun to do and that there wouldn't be too much competition."

The group designed a demo version of the Web site to present to the judges but the site did not actually go online.

This is not the first time Bear has been recognized for her work on history. Last year she won the White Rose Essay Contest for her paper on the Lodz ghetto, the second largest ghetto during the Holocaust.

Bear said that despite the ghetto's size, there was still research done on it.

"It's just one of those things that gets looked over by historians," Bear said.

Bear decided to focus on the ghetto for her contest because she wanted to bring to light the history of a place that she said had been neglected for so long.

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