Dec 12, 2006

On An Empty Classroom and Fear of Nukes

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Empty classroom in UT's McMaster HallEmpty classroom in UT's McMaster Hall

(Toledo, OH) I picked up a stray piece of paper as the last of my students filed out the door after taking the final exam. Over the course of the semester I became a bit annoyed at my low-tech classroom, as I had to cart 40 pounds of equipment across campus three times a week.

And yet, as I packed up my bags for the last time this semester, I waxed sentimental over the shared experience of the pursuit of knowledge with this group of students, even in a room that only boasts a VHS player and an overhead projector.

True, a handful of students disappeared from the radar screen in the first weeks, and there were likely a few whose only real concern was passing the class. As every teacher knows, though, there are moments when you can all but see the metaphorical lightbulbs turning on as awareness sets in.

Learning is, of course, a two-way street, and I never cease to be amazed at the things I learn from students. I was surprised that none of my students, for example, considered nuclear proliferation to be a frightening development in human history.

Fallout shelter signI used to see these signs every day in Detroit Public Schools

As a child of the Cold War era, I grew up quite fearful of nuclear weapons, especially living in what was then an industrial mecca and likely nuclear target: Detroit. We were herded regularly into the Fallout Shelter for nuclear drills, an area that was clearly marked with radiation signs.

Today, of course, these are the "tornado" or "emergency" areas in schools. Maybe I am just a paranoid relic of a time in which government propaganda about the Soviets created a generation of nuke-fearing citizens, but I still think that having more nations with nuclear weapons increases the likelihood that they will be used.

Then again, I would hate to be right about the dangers of nukes; there would be no joy in telling the last thousand surviving humans that I saw the nuclear holocaust coming: "Told you so, you mutant freaks!"

Anyways, modern European history students: thank you for a memorable semester, and I wish each of you well in your endeavors. Remember to enjoy life, to embrace the desire to learn, and to be skeptical of the words of authority figures.

Especially bemused history instructors with antiquated notions.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love the nukes, Mike. They are our friends!

:-}

JD

Mark said...

Coincidence that you post this nearly at the same time that Olmert "kind of" admits that Israel has nuclear weapons?

A too-soon dismissed news posting:
http://www.comcast.net/news/international/middleeast/index.jsp?cat=MIDDLEEAST&fn=/2006/12/12/540085.html

Mark said...

The quote, since I messed up my link-up:

"Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map," Olmert said. "Can you say that this is the same level, when you are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"

-Sepp said...

Strange cooincidence HM, since my daughter pointed out the old fallout shelter sign at school and I went into explaining it and, what we thought of it as kids.

historymike said...

(laughing at JD)

historymike said...

Coincidental, Mark, but perhaps the spectre of a regional nuclear war in the Middle East was in the back of my mind.

BTW Mark - I saw your interview in the Independent Collegian article on blogs. Nice work!

historymike said...

None of the students in my class, Sepp, recalled seeing "Fallout Shelter" signs. They have since been replaced with less-threatening signs.

microdot said...

Mike, do your remember bomb drills in grade school? Having to get under our desks? Being herded into the basement of the school? Duck and cover?
I went to grade school in Detroit (St. Monica Parish)
and remember all these things clearly and how much fun it was to have our classes interrupted.
Though the vague sense of paranoia these episodes triggered lives on with us today.

microdot said...

Mike, do your remember bomb drills in grade school? Having to get under our desks? Being herded into the basement of the school? Duck and cover?
I went to grade school in Detroit (St. Monica Parish)
and remember all these things clearly and how much fun it was to have our classes interrupted.
Though the vague sense of paranoia these episodes triggered lives on with us today.

microdot said...

I went to grade school in Detroit (St. Monica Parish) and clearly remember "Air Raid" Drills. Having to get under our desks and heaven help you if there was any giggling!
Sometimes, we would all go into the basement of the school for a bomb drill. We also learned how to duck and cover incase we were caught outside unawares when the bomb hit!
It might have been good fgor a few giggles at the time, but today there still is a lingering paranoia with the memory!

historymike said...

I think I was just past the "duck-and-cover" era, Microdot.

In our drills there was a blaring, buzzing alarm, and we went down to the "Fallout Shelter," which was really the basement of the school.

Everyone was supposed to be completely quiet, while the teachers took attendance. At the time we never knew if it was the "real" alert or not until we got to go back to class.

By the late 1970s, nuke drills seemed to disappear. We were only left with fire drills and the occasional tornado drill.

I remember in 5th grade there was a kid who loved to pull the fire alarms. This would have been about May, 1975, and he must have gotten away with it three or four times before they figured out who he was. It usually happened between classes, which was even crazier, because the teachers were frantically trying to find "their" kids in the crowded hallways.

The Screaming Nutcase said...

Have you read Crichton's "State of Fear?" Mostly interesting for the hypothesis that fear is how our masters control us, and the media's complicity.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Mike,

The problem with nukes is that they have only been used twice, by us, and so many years ago.

However, I like you see the potential for them being used in the future, because of the proliferation; likely here, but even more likely somewhere in the mid-east.

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