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Inside Nonfiction Matters

Our Responsibility —


As we wait to see what Obama decides on troops, I realized that I had been avoiding my (and perhaps our) responsibility. I am not sure what the right strategy is there — this blog is not a advertisement for one political camp or another. But it suddenly hit me that our nation is making a decision that may well effect the lives — literally the life or death, but also the quality of life — of the teenagers we claim we are helping to educate and inform with our nonfiction books. And yet what leadership are we showing? The issues are complex — the very best experts have conflicting views, and even if we take the most rational choice based  on the most deeply considered advice, there is no guarantee of what outcome that will produce. The reality is no one is sure what would happen if we sent in 30-40,000 more troops, or if we withdrew and just left training crews in place. We can project dire outcomes either way. 
    But the fact that this is a puzzling situation does  not exempt us, as adults, from helping young people to understand it. If nonfiction does  anything it must help young people to make sense of the world — both by giving them accurate information and by offering models of thinking and analysis. So unlike Iraq where we rushed in on the winds of 9-11 and rumors  of WMD, we as a nation are pausing. But this cannot be a pause in which we hide and wish the problem would go away. We need teach ins — not ala Vietnam to counter a government policy, but rather so our young people understand the choices, the divide, the responsibilities we are facing. So I am going to seek out some articulate, informed speakers and request they guest blog  here or provide links so that this place becomes a resource for you teachers, librarians, parents — so you can discuss the problem of what to do next with the people whose lives will be determined by that decision.

Here are a few initial resources, suggested by Professor Gary Sick of Columbia: (the segment is on Afghan Corruption)

and here is the debate in Upfront, as framed for teenagers:

I hope to add more resources and guest blogs starting next week. And if you know of classes in which students are discussing these issues please share these resources with them, and report back, tell us what the students are thinking, saying, and questioniong.