Transcript of a chat on Wendy Kuhn's essay "The Killing Fields: A Worthy Addition to America’s National Memory" by the following Engl 290 students at Lehigh University, Jan 30, 2003:

Amy Burchard
John Culhane
Lindsay Totams

 
JOHN CULHANE has entered. [ 09:40:24 AM ]
LINDSAY TOTAMS has entered. [ 09:40:24 AM ]
AMY BURCHARD has entered. [ 09:40:27 AM ]
EDWARD GALLAGHER has entered. [ 09:41:00 AM ]
EDWARD GALLAGHER > Welcome to a chat on Wendy's issue essay
EDWARD GALLAGHER > First thing, let's make sure we have a sense of what her main point or points are.
EDWARD GALLAGHER > How about everybody take a minute and say what you think her main point or points are and you can even quote from her text or refer to her paragraphs by number if you wish
EDWARD GALLAGHER > after that we'll open for discussion
EDWARD GALLAGHER > ok, take a run at it
AMY BURCHARD > I think the main one is that TKF makes Americans question gov't, etc, but in the end does not affect their nationalistic feeling.
JOHN CULHANE > wendy's main point is the power of group think, which she beleive results in a kind of collective recollection of history as it is taught to children
LINDSAY TOTAMS > I think Wendy's main point is that Americans' nationalism is not hurt by learning about the so-called "bad" parts of history; on the contrary, it can increase one's sense of nationalism.
EDWARD GALLAGHER > ok now go wherever
EDWARD GALLAGHER > what did you like not like etc
EDWARD GALLAGHER > what made you think
LINDSAY TOTAMS > I thought her idea about "baby nationalists" was very interesting
LINDSAY TOTAMS > It's funny to think that we are raised from birth with a specific history text designed to make us be "good Americans."
JOHN CULHANE > by discussing the almost robotic, ruthless children of the Khmer Rouge, Wendy illustrates just how far and powerful collective thought can carry
LINDSAY TOTAMS > Yes she brought up good examples from the film about the Khmer Rouge children, like when the little girl shot the older man
JOHN CULHANE > at first, Wendy states that children may not be ready to learn about some of the-not-so-proud moments in our history; which i disagree with
AMY BURCHARD > Going on what John said, I liked how she brought in the KR classroom scene . It is a memorable scene, and especially interesting to look at in comparison with the first part of her essay, where she tallks about Am children being taught.
LINDSAY TOTAMS > JC why do you disagree with that? I think children might not be ready to learn certain subjects when they are very young
AMY BURCHARD > You think children should know everything? Honestly, I had a hard time digesting TKF.
JOHN CULHANE > true, but i have always felt that adults never give children enogh credit for what they are able to understand
LINDSAY TOTAMS > Actually I think I'm in the middle...I don't think they should necessarily learn about all of America's faults and graphic wars, etc., but maybe children should just learn the concept that America is not perfect...we make mistakes, sometimes big, costly ones that can hurt other people.
AMY BURCHARD > I agree, Lindsay
JOHN CULHANE > one reason is that adults seems to be wary of the resultant questions that arise from teaching subjects that fall in the realm of the morally ambiguous
LINDSAY TOTAMS > And it's that understanding that we are imperfect that is really the message that needs to get through to them
LINDSAY TOTAMS > I agree with JC...I think some history teachers would have a hard time answering questions because they don't necessarily want to admit what the actual truth behind the historical event is, especially if it makes our country look bad
JOHN CULHANE > definately. it is a fine line. take the case of john walker lindh; he came from a very liberal background and studied islam and the autobiography of malcolm X and ovbiously took the teaching to the extremes
AMY BURCHARD > I see what you're saying, John, but the whole point of my Loewen piece was that those "morally ambiguous" topics are not taught because they want the world to be black and white for children.
JOHN CULHANE > i am interested in examining the textbooks from midwestern and southern school districts, the places where even teaching evolution is frowned upon.
LINDSAY TOTAMS > I would even be interested to see what the southern texts have to say about slavery, for another example
JOHN CULHANE > living in the tri-state area my whole life, i take for granted the type of education i received
AMY BURCHARD > it seems like these are all the same textbooks, but all kids in the country "suffer" to not offend Southerners.
AMY BURCHARD > I thought.
LINDSAY TOTAMS > Does each different area actually have their own textbooks?? That seems kind of weird, I would think the whole country woul d have the same ones
LINDSAY TOTAMS > I agree Amy
AMY BURCHARD > The teachers may present the material differently, though
LINDSAY TOTAMS > Right
JOHN CULHANE > most definately. communities vote of the budgets for their schools systems and have much to say about the ciriculum
LINDSAY TOTAMS > Really? That's interesting
AMY BURCHARD > but it didn't sound like there were a ton of texts to choose from
JOHN CULHANE > true, especially considering the costs. it also would be interesting to see how much texts and history has changed since we were in grade school
EDWARD GALLAGHER > we can go for another 5-10 minutes -- if there are points not brought up that you'd like to raise, work them in now
AMY BURCHARD > Okay, what about this passage where Wendy asks, what if they didn't cover it up?
LINDSAY TOTAMS > What paragraph number?
AMY BURCHARD > Reminds me a little of taking down those Canadians last year--a mistake
LINDSAY TOTAMS > I agree with Wendy's analysis
LINDSAY TOTAMS > Everyone makes mistakes...I do think the American public is more forgiving of a mistake than an out-and-out cover up operation
AMY BURCHARD > Me, too--I think people are removed from that area of the world enough, that they/we maybe don't care as much as we think we do.
JOHN CULHANE > i do too. if there is one thing we have learned in the past 50 years (esp, the last 5) is that the american public will pretty much accept anything as long as we feel we aren't being played for fools
LINDSAY TOTAMS > Can you give examples JC?
AMY BURCHARD > So the cover-up is where the threat to nationalism lies...as Wendy says.
AMY BURCHARD > Are you talking about Clinton stuff?
JOHN CULHANE > well, there is the watergate situation, which would have been less damaging had nixon admitted improprities earlier
LINDSAY TOTAMS > right
JOHN CULHANE > yeah, especially clinton
AMY BURCHARD > but I think people who were with him stood by him, even if he was made fun of
JOHN CULHANE > as our government becomes larger and larger, the individual feels smaller and smaller
AMY BURCHARD > and still is
JOHN CULHANE > the only solice is in the fact that as a collective population, one voice, we can affect change
EDWARD GALLAGHER > ok, I have to ask you to start to wind down
LINDSAY TOTAMS > Basically I think people will continue to lie about a situation until they get caught in their lie
JOHN CULHANE > if we are lied to, kept in the dark, we then feel as if we have no say whatsoever
LINDSAY TOTAMS > But look how much good came out of Schanberg and Pran's expose of the US military in Cambodia...
AMY BURCHARD > right Lindsay--it seems like you are avoiding a bad situation by lying, but then it's worse in the end
LINDSAY TOTAMS > it just goes to show that telling the truth does make a difference.
EDWARD GALLAGHER > To wrap, would everybody please make a final sort of concluding comment either about wendy's essay or points you and others have added here
JOHN CULHANE > absolutely, like children, the public should be given more d=credit for its ability to forgive as well as its ability to make sound moral decisions
LINDSAY TOTAMS > Now millions more Americans know about the plight of the Cambodians and have more sympathy for the ongoing situation, including myself...I had never heard about it before this film
JOHN CULHANE > i thought wendy essay was excelent. she takled a loaded subject from many angles and has elicited a good debate
AMY BURCHARD > Yes, Wendy did a good job. My only criticism may be all of the intro about "collective memory" and textbook stuff--Perhaps this is necessary for outsiders, though. Overall, she made great points about the film.
LINDSAY TOTAMS > History needs to return to its goal of communicating past events without any influence towards either side...children should be taught objectively in order to instill in them an understanding of how the real world works.
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EDWARD GALLAGHER > Thanks to all!
EDWARD GALLAGHER has left. [ 10:09:44 AM ]