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Students debate war

By Clay Wilson

As the bombs were falling on Baghdad, some of America's future leaders were watching n and debating.

I just think that it's about time," said Henry County High School senior Ashley Bond. "We've been arguing about this thing forever. I don't feel safe that they have weapons of mass destruction ?"

I understand that Saddam's a bad guy, but there have been a lot of leaders who are bad for their people," countered Cynde Fox. "And nothing good comes of war. More people die."

Bond, Fox and other members of Joel Harris' advanced placement psychology class were speaking Friday moments after the first wave of the U.S. military's "Shock and Awe" campaign descended on Iraq.

As they talked, images of huge explosions and glowing fires in downtown Baghdad replayed on the classroom's television monitor. The destruction was projected on a large screen that Harris uses for various presentations.

I don't like watching it. It's morbid. It's like people are getting excited watching other people die," said Alyce Cobb.

I like watching it ? I'm glad ? to see that they're finally doing what they said they were going to do," said Linsey Floyd.

Although the students carried on a spirited debate in response to questions about the war, an informal show-of-hands poll indicated that 15 of the 20 students in the class feel the U.S. is doing the right thing in attempting to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime.

I just think it's a travesty that all of these people are being violated by their leaders," said Melissa Yancey.

Yancey said that Hussein is in clear violation of United Resolutions, and added that, "If they're (the U.N.) not going to do anything, somebody has to."

Harris, who also teaches government, said his classes have been discussing the war in Iraq "off and on" since it began. He also said they have been sporadically watching news coverage of the event.

Harris said that discussing current events helps to keep students connected with the world outside of school, and also to connect concepts they're studying with real life.

For instance, he said, his psychology classes have been discussing how the different media outlets' "slant" on their coverage can affect people's perceptions of the war.

But he also said that, as a teacher, watching students' reaction to the pictures of war gave him an insight into the minds of the video generation.

We're finding that a lot of these kids are so used to video games that when they see these bombs falling, it doesn't really click that it's real," he said.

I had one student ask (while images of the bombing were showing), ?Are they killing people right now?' n and that student was sincere."

Despite this indication that today's students might be desensitized to violence, one Clayton County Schools official said that system is taking a cautious approach to exposing students to war coverage.

(I've been) trying to stress the importance of sharing information as (the war) progressed ? but I don't necessarily think they need to get it in real-time," said William Greene, Clayton County Schools' coordinator of secondary social studies.

There are still some things we need to protect children from."

Recently Greene sent an e-mail to the system's social studies teachers containing discussion topics and World Wide Web links to sites designed to help teachers address the war. However, Greene advised that teachers simply use these resources as supplements, while continuing to focus on the regular state-mandated curriculum.

He also advised sensitivity in discussing the war.

Please continue to be mindful that we have an array of students with varying experiences and connections to the events happening around the world," he wrote.

And while Greene was writing to Clayton County teachers, this particular advice could have applied to Henry County teachers, as well. In Harris' class, Jacquetta Lindsey said she has a personal connection to the war in Iraq.

Lindsey said she has three cousins and three very close friends who are either in Iraq or Kuwait right now. She also said she is against the war.

I'm all about peace," she said.

Another student spoke up to say that the U.S. is trying to secure peace in Iraq.

But you're killing innocent people to do that," Lindsey retorted.

And so the debate continued, as it does across the nation and the world.

Let's discuss this some more," said another student as the door to Harris' classroom swung shut, leaving the outcome of the debate uncertain.