Class Discussion

Rollins scratched his head. He always scratched his head when he thought about a big problem. His mom said all that head-scratching would give him a bald spot. Rollins would look up, scratch his head, and say that he though bald spots were distinguished looking. All the important people had them. Except Einstein. He had the opposite of a bald spot.

Today Rollins’ mind chewed on a problem his teacher has presented to the class. Every day Mr. Doyle reads the front page of the newspaper to the class, and they discuss the news. Today the news was about United States threatening to attack other countries that were a threat to world peace. Or that was the story as Mr. Doyle summarized it. Apparently there’s a country called Iraq with a leader named Saddam who’s not a very nice guy. This Saddam likes to hurt people, and he gives money to terrorists, and he likes to buy nasty weapons that he shouldn’t have. That was how Sally summarized the story during the discussion. Most of the class agreed that Saddam was a big meanie and that the United States should protect the world from the big bully.

Rollins agreed that this Saddam character wasn’t the nicest guy on the block. He sounded like the bullies that pushed kids into puddles on the playground. Only worse. But Rollins wondered what would happen if the United States attacked Iraq. Attacking another country isn’t exactly like pushing a bully back–and that’s no easy proposition. And if the U.S. attacks Iraq, Rollins thought, aren’t we being just like the bully, only a bigger bully?

Rollins rarely ever asks questions in class, mainly because his stomach gets all queasy when everyone looks at him. Rollins doesn’t care for the pressure. And he usually didn’t have any questions. But today he couldn’t help wondering if the U.S. was just being a bigger bully. After all, he reasoned, what if a bigger country came along and didn’t like the way we did things and wanted to attack us?

Some of the kids laughed, and a Jacob reminded Rollins that there is no bigger country. Jacob, of course, didn’t raise his hand before talking. Then Mr. Doyle stepped in. He walked over to Jacob’s desk and took his pencil.


“Hey,” Jacob cried, “That’s my pencil.”

“Yep,” said Mr. Doyle, “And I’m taking it. I’m bigger than you, so I can do what I want.” He paused a moment while Jacob reflected on that. “Rollins has a point. Just because we’re the biggest country in the world, doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want. We still have to be accountable for our actions. Can anybody tell me what that means?”

Sally answered, and Mr. Doyle continued talking while Rollins started reading the article from the paper. Most of the time the class didn’t read the article, Mr. Doyle would just summarize it and the discussion would start from there.

“Mr. Doyle?” Rollins asked without looking up from the paper. “This article says that Saddam used chemical weapons on his own people.”

“That’s right, Rollins. Mr. Hussein used chemical gasses to kill some of the people in his own country. As we’ve discussed before, he isn’t a very nice guy and something needs to be done about it. As Rollins pointed out, attacking his country may not be the best solution. Can anyone think of a better solution?”

Before anyone could answer Rollins spoke up, “Mr. Doyle? The article also says where Saddam got those chemical weapons.”

“Probably from terrorists,” said Jacob.

“I bet he got them from Russia,” said Donny.

“He made them himself,” a girl in the back said.

“No,” Rollins said, “Saddam got the chemical weapons from us.”

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