There are times where I am absolutely appalled by the inappropriate reactions I receive from my students when I try to discuss some subjects in my 8th grade U.S. History class.
I am currently teaching them about the War Between the States of 1861-1865, and one of the key terms we discussed was the concept of Total War; as practiced, for example, by General Sherman in Georgia.
Just about every lesson of mine is accompanied by a Power Point slideshow that is heavy on images and photos. After showing them photos of General Sherman, the skeletal remains of buildings in Richmond, and a Sherman necktie, I went to some other slides showing examples of Total War that was carried out in World War II, which was the quintessential Total War. I showed photos of B-17s dropping bombs, the burned-out remains of the city of Dresden, and then this photo:
My students were dead silent as I explained to them that these were Soviet civilians who had been murdered by Nazi soldiers during Hitler's 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. But then, when I added that the Japanese also carried out massacres like this against the Chinese, a good portion of my class (the last period of the day) began laughing hysterically.
I told the class that I didn't see what was funny about any of this, and that made them laugh some more. The more horrified I became at their laughing, the funnier they thought it was.
I finally sat down in the chair at my desk... defeated.
I clicked to the next slide, which had some bullet statements they needed to copy down. While they did that, the laughter started to subside as the students began to concentrate on copying down the information. As I sat there still in shock, my curiosity got the best of me, and I posed a question to the class.
"I don't understand why you guys started laughing when I told you that the Japanese did that to the Chinese. Someone please enlighten me."
A student blurted out, "We thought they was cousins!"
My God, what have we wrought?
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson