One boy's comic book - remarkably well drawn, we're going to be buying these things from him before long - involves tricking President Bush into going to the core as a way of getting rid of him. I am going to sit down with the author and talk about the problems with bumping off the president in a school assignment. It's a tricky one. First off, his work really isn't that different from lots of grown-up humor out there about the administration. And this boy really does intend it to be both humorous and a form of political expression. And it's highly fantastic - it would be more problematic if it was a realistic depiction of killing the president, but this is clearly in the realm of the imagination. On the other hand, the work doesn't include any real political content except a dislike of our current president - no criticism or satire of policies, for example - which discredits it as a form of political expression, in my eyes. And it's just not okay to make killing someone a joke, especially not when you're still a kid, especially not when it's a school assignment, especially not when the victim is the current president of the US.
Anyway, the conversation should be interesting, and I do intend it to be a conversation - "What makes something good political humor?" "What are the risks of depicting the president's death in a work of art, even if you don't intend it to be serious?" - not just a teacher cracking down - "You're not allowed to do this, start again!" We will have to find some kind of compromise because he already put a huge amount of work into this project, so I don't want him to have to start from square one, especially if he's invested in this project as it is now. I'll let you know the outcome...
Here's an article discussing some of these questions in regards to a novel (written by an adult). I think I'm going to print it out and share it with the student. I am in favor of almost-complete legal freedom of expression, by the way, but I am also in favor of thinking carefully about how you use that freedom.
(And by the way, the project does integrate the necessary Science facts!)
PS. Hi FBI/CIA/NSA agents, welcome to my blog! It's all pretty innocent here, just working out some ethical issues in my classroom... you can go back to googling terrorists, now.