Whenever I hear the words “field trip” today, there are a list of things that should come to mind: big yellow school buses, uniforms, Lunchables and Capri Suns in a brown paper bag.
Unfortunately, a field trip I recently went on for a class included none of these things, but it was still a valuable experience.
Taught by associate professor Gilbert Martinez, my class “Free Speech, Free Press and the Supreme Court” went to hear oral arguments made in front of the Texas Supreme Court regarding a case involving the First Amendment.
The trip gave my class the ability to determine whether or not we could foresee the issues or make arguments made by lawyers about the case. It put into perspective arguments the government would make defending its policies and how courts approach them.
The case was Susan Combs and Greg Abbott v. Texas Entertainment Association Inc in this instance. The case revolved around a “pole tax” the state requires of sexually-oriented businesses if the establishments serve alcohol.
The case was perfect to see for a class about the First Amendment. The state defended its regulation of the expression, while attorneys for the Texas Entertainment Association believed the state is attempting to profit from an expression of which it does not approve.
For the most part, the class did a good job predicting what arguments would be made and identifying what the conflicts over the law would be. At the very least, we were able to witness firsthand what the class studied previously and watch professionals in action — who were once in our position.
It is interesting in academics, activities are often labeled either “curricular” or “extra-curricular.” The most effective classes involve some sort of hands-on experience. I understand these features already exist for some majors and departments, but where they lack in others, students would benefit.
Spanish classes could visit a taqueria to order and converse in a practical setting. Basic government courses could visit the State Legislature in January during its upcoming session. Journalism classes could visit the Austin American-Statesman.
The list could go on.
It should not have to cost students several thousand dollars to study abroad for the experience. At the very least, activities like this could take away the normal stress that comes with the everyday routine, especially as finals and seniors’ graduation approach.
Field trips do not only have to be for middle school students — given the right context, we could all benefit from one.
— Luis Baez is a political science junior