Classes at SMU, other colleges cover JFK assassination in depth

Tom Stone, English professor at SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, talks about how his course studies the JFK assassination.

By Melissa Repko

When college students begin his class, Tom Stone says they know little to nothing about John F. Kennedy’s presidency or his assassination.

“They have probably seen a paragraph about it in a high school textbook. That’s about it,” said Stone, who teaches at Southern Methodist University.

Stone and several professors around the country have turned the events of Nov. 22, 1963, into semester-long college courses. Students study the assassination, read books it inspired and debate conspiracy theories that followed. They also explore broader themes, like the Cold War, government suspicion and how primary documents influence the telling of history.

The classes reflect how in the 50 years since Kennedy’s death, the story of his assassination increasingly relies on textbooks rather than personal memory. College students, born decades after Kennedy’s death, rarely feel the pangs of loss. Instead, they’re intrigued by a Camelot fantasy and a mysterious gunman....