Victorious Hall posed the question to his eighth-grade class this morning.
I always greet my students with “peace” when they enter my classroom. But on this particular Monday morning, I asked the first student how he felt. His response: “I’m great, bin Laden was killed!” I was a little intrigued by his response because it’s not too often you hear people celebrating death.
I watched the news of Americans shouting and dancing in the streets over Osama bin Laden being murdered. Seeing this brought many questions, so I decided to alter my warm-up question this morning: “Do you believe it’s ever ok to celebrate a persons death?” I wanted to see how this current event has impacted my students.
As a facilitator, I wanted to make sure I did not share my beliefs until they were satisfied in expressing their own. As expected, there were mixed emotions about the question from my eighth-grade all African-American male class.
“If they have done plenty of wrong, it’s ok,” said Todd Jenkins, one of my more vocal students. “If someone has murdered my family, I would be happy if they were murdered!”
Several hands flew in the air.
“We should focus on forgiveness over celebration,” Brandon Miles quickly shot back.
“It’s disrespectful to celebrate someone’s death because they are already gone,” Aaron Pickett added.
“It’s alright if that person deserves to die,” Kasif Hardy said.
Almost every student in the class shared their opinion. And after careful consideration of the issue, most of them began to lean more on the side of forgiveness. They began to believe it wasn’t right for other humans to celebrate bin Laden’s death.
My main goal in facilitating the conversation was not to push my opinion, but to use questioning techniques to help students think critically about their decisions. So even if I agreed or disagreed with a student’s response, I made sure to challenge their thinking.
Educators must be aware of teachable moments. This conversation was an opportunity for students to not only speak about current events, but to examine who they are. It helped them reflect and choose a side, not merely based on media influence, but by extensive self-examination.