What are our children learning? It’s an age old question – and sometimes, I worry, a trick one. In the U.S. state of Indiana, at least, the answer might be a little surprising.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security has produced a big instructional program on “Careers in Homeland Security” for grades 9-12 (high school students, in other words; ages ~15-18). It’s… surprisingly comprehensive, to be honest. Oh, there’s some fluffy propaganda – “Do you have what it takes to be a SEAL?”, for instance – but it manages to cover a remarkably wide variety of subjects, some of which you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in high school.
At right is a partial list of the topics covered. Natural disasters? Yawn. Racial profiling? Boring. Terrorism and geography? US prisons and terrorists? Kind of advanced stuff for high-school students. What’s that? Agroterrorism, and bioterrorism by food poisoning? Nuclear terrorism? Effects of nuclear detonation?
Other fun subjects include “Pandemics: Building the Perfect Plague” and an introductory cryptanalysis presentation “How Language Works in Code”.
While I appreciate that this is relevant and current, in this post-9/11 world we live in, some of these seem a little dark and broody when compared to typical high-school lessons about things like Oedipal complexes, calculus, and asexual reproduction.
I went right for the nuclear stuff, because I was curious just how many punches they pulled, or how much they dumbed this stuff down for the target audience. I was… surprised:
“Upon contact with humans, the nuclear shock wave will push the person in the direction of propagation and compress the body as the wave passes, resulting in damage ranging from burst eardrums to destruction and liquefaction of the internal organs”
Let’s cover that last bit one more time, shall we? Destruction and liquefaction of the – that is, your – internal organs. Oh, and the blast will “magnify thermal radiation burns” by “tearing away your skin”. Got that, everyone? Good – now go eat lunch, if you’re still hungry.
Where’s the innocence of childhood, where everyone “ducks and covers”, and then goes on with life as normal? In Indiana, apparently, it happens somewhere else.
One thing I did find a bit interesting is this tidbit, from the “Science of Nuclear Radiation, Lecture 1” document:
You can draw your own inferences from that, I think.
If you’re not an American, you may not understand that Indiana is a very agricultural state; driving through it, you could be forgiven for thinking it was nothing but an endless series of farm fields. This heritage shows in a couple of these “homeland security” lessons, particularly the ones on agroterrorism and bioterrorism. I mean, here’s the “objectives” for the presentation on agroterrorism:
…and here is the vocabulary students are apparently expected to be familiar with:
Are you smarter than a fifth grader? Probably. Are you better-educated on agroterrorism – the “introduction of a disease agent” into the food chain to “weaken socioeconomic stability” or generate fear – than a ninth-grader? Possibly not.
All in all, there’s some very interesting stuff to be had there, so have at it, and enjoy, if you can.