Monday, December 20, 2010

In my seventh-grade class, we're about to start reading Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains." This short story was written in 1950 during the Cold War and is Bradbury's commentary on how he thought nuclear proliferation would affect the world. It's actually a pretty heavy composition for 7th graders, especially 7th graders as naive as my girls. Seriously.

One of them today was wholly convinced that Manhattan was her favorite state in the USA. Given the fact that they are so totally clueless in regards to geography, you can imagine how rusty their history is! I knew I had to do some heavy introducing of the time period in which this story was written in order for it to make any sense to the girls.

So I put together a PowerPoint. About the Cold War. And nuclear weapons and their effects. It was a really jovial task. I tried to make it as attainable as possible without getting into too many scary details.

Their. minds. were. blown. I think the past two days were the first they'd ever even heard about nuclear weapons, Russia, radiation, and atoms. It was so difficult to resist the impulse to turn my class into a history class for a few weeks so they could fully understand everything we were talking about. But I pressed through and explained Hiroshima, Nagasaki, radiation sickness, "Duck and Cover," and other such things that were commonly on the minds of people around the world during the Cold War.

I showed the girls pictures of Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped and explained the things that are alluded to in "There Will Come Soft Rains": the flash, the shock wave, and the fires that can result from a atomic bomb explosion. At one point, I put a picture of a Hiroshima survivor on the screen and we talked about the radiation burns that were all over his arms and torso.

Here's where the title of this entry comes into play, get ready.

One of my girls cocked her head to one side, kind of furrowed her brows, and slowly raised her hand to ask a question. It was clear she had a doozy of a query brewing in that noggin.

"Teacher, the shock wave--the blast--is that what makes his" she trailed off as she pulled the outer corners of her eyes to make them look the same as the bomb survivor's hooded peepers.

I was at once struck by the potentially racist comment this child was making, then dumbfounded at the realization that I was pretty sure she was seriously asking the question. I think she legitimately thought the blast from the nuclear bomb was so strong that it had made the eyes of the people of Japan go slanted.

" No, the man in the picture is Japanese. Japanese people are Asian and that's a physical attribute of Asians. They are born with slanted eyes." It was the best answer I could come up with without getting into the details of basic genetics.

"But we are Asian and our eyes don't look like that," another one of my darlings piped up.

Touche, my dear. Touche. I didn't have much of an answer to that one.

Vicariously yours,

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