Our 2nd year pupils study events of John F Kennedy’s presidency including his assassination. In the LRC, we ask them to research a particular group that’s been implicated in his murder before roleplaying an interview, acting as journalists and witnesses and experts on all manner of relevant topics.
Every time this particular topic comes around, I get asked the same question,
Catch we watch him getting shot?
And then when the class gets into the research, it’s never long until someone lets out a horrified squeal: they’ve discovered the autopsy pictures, showing the wounds to Kennedy’s skull.
Their enthusiasm for this gory bit of historical footage is always disturbing, but there’s no point in hiding it away. It happened, so it’s got to be dealt with in context. And so we talk about this being the cold blooded murder of a human being; that his wife was right beside him at the time; that he dies a horrible and violent death.
And this is why we have that discussion.
It was only a bullet. How could it do that much damage?
To these 13-year-olds, there’s not much difference between this and any other bit of film you can see on the television. They’ve never seen the damage a real bullet will do. They’re not desensitised to violence, because their attitude quickly changes when realisation hits, but they’ve never seen this sort of violence in real life. That’s something I’m very glad about, but remaining oblivious to the purpose of deadly weapons is not on.
Telling this part of the story was never an intentional part of the investigation, but it’s just as important.