The Heart of a MarineThis Detroit Free Press profiles a student at West Bloomfield High whose life dream is to be a marine. That makes him an anomaly in West Bloomfield, a wealthy Detroit suburb. Not all of the kids there are spoiled brats, but the fact that one of them wants to be a marine and to defend our country is unusual. If you read the article it's obvious that the reporter is trying hard to be objective, but can't help denigrating the kid at least a bit. His parents, teachers, and friends are more open. They desperately try to talk him out of it.
The part of the article that troubled me though, was his English teacher who, as the article claims,
wants her students to do more than learn facts; she wants them to think for themselves; she wants them to question authority; she wants them to read and argue and listen and learn.But, she
assigned the class to read "Johnny Got His Gun," an antiwar novel by Dalton Trumbo. It is based on World War I, but the themes apply to Iraq.Also,
She wanted him to read Trumbo's novel, as well as "Slaughterhouse-Five," by Kurt Vonnegut.If you read the comments after the article, there are a bunch from students who love this teacher. And I'm sure she is a good English teacher. But reading about this teacher brought to mind the quote from Don Marquis,
If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; But if you really make them think, they'll hate you.Sure, she wants her students to question authority, but does she ever give them enough information to question her authority? She and the rest of the class badger a student who wants to do more than huddle with a group of elite conformists who work tirelessly against the very people who make their elitism possible. And they are blind to that fact. Sure, some of that has to do with worry that he will get hurt. But they have become "those cold timid souls" that Teddy Roosevelt decried in his famous speech, To the Man in the Arena.
In the end I have to wonder if she is really making them think, or just convincing them that a knee-jerk reaction against the war and the military is real thought. Are they doing any more than following the crowd that claims to speak truth to power, but only when there are no consequences? Does she have the nerve to have them read Victor Davis Hanson or any of the other eloquent writers who battle in print to let us know why we fight, and why societies have had to fight throughout the ages in order to survive? I doubt it.