Oct 9, 2006

on their minds

Whenever you invite a guest speaker, you take a risk: he might be too honest, too opinionated, too frank. When you invite two guest speakers, and you've never met either one, but are taking it on faith from another teacher, your risk more than doubles.

Today's guests, both Vietnam veterans, came to my junior classes, since we're studying The Things They Carried. Their rambling, pointed, sharply personal observations matched well with the spirit and tone of the novel, catching students (and this teacher) a bit off-guard. Some of the quotes that capture what I'm talking about:
"To this day I don't understand why we were there."

"If you need a hole in your soul that you don't have yet, join the Army."

"The stuff they make you do makes you fear the wrath of a vengeful God. It starts dripping, drip, drip, as you remember the evil things you did."

"I hate it when people say 'Thank you for your service.' Might as well say 'Thank you for killing people.'"

"We did it because we didn't want to look like wimps."

"They used to hand out Bronze Stars like shoes."
I guess I just don't expect a certain level of preachiness in a presentation before strangers. My students, though, handled things maturely and respectfully, and were brave enough to challenge their guests on several points.

If I invite them back, next time I'll warn my students to brace themselves for unapologetic antiwar sentiments--and follow it up with an opposing perspective from a different person or group. No one gets a free pass in my classroom, not even me.

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