A few days ago I reported that two Vietnam veterans, invited by another teacher to speak to our 11th-grade classes, took advantage of the bully pulpit, spending most of their time preaching against the war and against the military.
This distressed many of my students--and completely surprised me--so in their post-presentation discussion, they wondered if we could hear from a different perspective.
Yesterday they got it, when a retired major came to tell it like he saw it.
Today, my students reported that they felt much better informed, and that the initial discomfort from the first presentation had worn off.
One of the major's stories stuck with me. He told about a time when a fellow advisor became frustrated with his South Vietnamese contingent, who were having trouble understanding the American's mangled attempts at the local language. Eventually the sergeant blew up and stormed off.
"Well, who's the ignorant one here?" said one of the Vietnamese soldiers, in perfect English. The American sergeant, within earshot, came roaring back. "You can speak English?" he shouted. "I could kill you!"
The major, holding back the sergeant, asked the Vietnamese why they hadn't spoken English the whole time. "You wouldn't have listened to us," they replied. "You always think you're right."