The week of 1/20/14, in connection with Writing Week, I had the honor of speaking with the students at the International School of Tanganyika in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Naturally, this created quite a stir.
Some kids were skeptical. Some were scared.
Some started investigations.
Some did research and found that something similar happened in London not long ago. Some took this as proof that both incidents were real…and possibly connected.
Wonderfully, many were inspired to write—stories, newspaper-style articles, emails to NASA.
Here are some of the overheard reactions:
- “THERE ARE ALIENS!” (grade 1 student)
- “I can read the writing. It says ‘Four women jump off a cliff.’” (grade 2)
- “It has ‘Made in China’ written on it.” (grade 3, about “alien” writing)
- “I think it may be an evil thing from another universe come to destroy us all. That or to save us all. It is hard to say.” (grade 3)
- “Is it Turkish?” (grade 5)
- “It would have made a bigger hole if it really came from high up.” (grade 5)
- “It’s a mineral digger that’s come up from underground.”
- “Have you seen God?”
- “I think this is a scam!”
- “It’s not real. It’s all a ploy by the teachers to get us to write.” (grade 5)
For the sake of argument, let’s say it was indeed such a ploy. Could/would an American school create a scenario like this to prompt kids to write?
Generally speaking, I’m afraid the answer is no.
And for the same reason some books are banned.
What happened in Tanzania shows that a “UFO” on school property would excite and motivate many students…but if it could scare even one—if even one parent complained—that would be enough for some schools to nix the idea.
And that is unfortunate. As we all know, you can’t please everyone. Whatever happened to the greatest good for the greatest number? Fire drills (and now, intruder drills) are scary for some kids and schools aren’t giving up those. Different good intention, same principle.
I’m a parent myself; I see that a little fear (at any age) is a good thing. It challenges us. It helps us analyze. It helps us overcome. And it may inspire us to write. All of which we want for our kids.
Therefore, I enthusiastically encourage schools in America (and everywhere else, of course) to consider crashing a UFO on your grounds. Tie it into your own Writing Week.
Tie it into an author visit.
Tie it into nothing.
In any case, the benefits far, far outweigh any risk.