Assignment to Violence

I just watched a story on the news where a school district close to here had a teacher who gave an assignment to students to conceptualize and illustrate an act of terror on the US. The teacher claims that the original assignment was lost in translation and takes full responsibility for not describing what he was actually after well enough. Imagine if you will, students bringing this assignment home and then trying to explain to their parents why they were drawing pictures of strange people with lots of guns and bombs aimed at the White House. The parents then went immediately to the district to complain and the district then came down on the teacher for giving an assignment that was in direct conflict with the district’s zero tolerance policy for violence. The Superintendent was interviewed on the news saying “Here we are giving these kids an assignment that could potentially get them expelled for doing the assignment.” The assignment was cancelled and any and all completed assignments were “destroyed.”

Now don’t get me wrong. If The Boy were to come home with this sort of assignment it would most definitely take me off guard and probably my gut, reflexive response would be one of anger as well. Anger that a teacher was asking my son to think up a new way to be violent and then figure out how to perpetrate that violence. That’s just really something for which I personally have zero tolerance.

But it makes me extremely curious to see what the initial, and mistranslated, concept for the assignment was. I want to know what the point of it was; what the teacher was trying to convey. Because I tend to want to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. I tend to want to think that he was trying to broaden horizons and encourage critical thinking.

The news didn’t give any information on what the original intent was for the assignment of course. They just focused on the drama and scandal behind the whole thing. But it makes me wonder if we’ll ever be able to look at things like terrorism with rational and critical thought instead of just reflexive emotion.

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