Oppenheimer, along for a show and tell

RobertOppenheimer_zps9c2769ca.jpgMention the name Robert Oppenheimer to someone who’s English is their L1, and you’ll get a multiplicity of responses. Getting a comparable response from a student where English is their L2 or even L3 then it would take some priming to do, if at all. The boys (at a boys high school, of course!) knew some of what he did, and took sometime to think of an answer.

The planners of the English room or ‘어l학실’ had the good foresight to project the screen onto the whiteboard. This suited me just fine. Putting the picture up, I asked them the question, “What did he help make?”. Silence.


Atomic bomb falling towards Hiroshima should be sans ‘briefcase’.

Beside the picture of Robert Oppenheimer, I drew a crude rendering of the Fat man atomic bomb, the one that was dropped on Japan. To add to the drawing I also drew an airplane and under the now falling A-bomb I wrote HIROSHIMA*. Plain enough, and this was sufficient to elicit the right answer. Easy when you know how.

To add to the name, I also stated that the dropping of the A-bomb had lead to the ending of  World war two. The responses in some classes was “He’s a hero”. I hesitated to add that because of his extra-curricular activities with the Communist groups at university, he was accused of being a Communist and his security level access revoked by the American government. An odd turn of events for an apparent ‘hero’.

* Edit: Mistakes in research are made at times; the atomic bomb that is depicted in the sketch was in fact dropped on Nagasaki and not Hiroshima, but point made and TL elicited.

3 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on kjmhoffman.

  2. Bit difficult for the students? Not sure I would have known who Oppenheimer was before Year 12 where he may (repeat, may!) just have got a mention in the WW2 subject curriculum module for Modern History of the NSW Higher School Certificate.

    Oppie in the photo does look a bit like an Aussie farmer, and NZ farmer too I would surmise circa 1943 with the hat and ciggie. New Mexico…similar casual clothing for hot dusty climate required. At least the students didn’t shout out, “He’s adjeosshi Number One.”

    Recent bio http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/nov/16/inside-centre-robert-oppenheimer-ray-monk-review

    • I guess I elicited from my own perspective. Being a bit of a military fanatic I knew of Oppenheimer but only later did I know more about his life.

      His famous pork-pie hat does look the part, as an Aussie farmer, but also fit to the dress of the period.

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