Saturday, September 8, 2012

Social Reality of the Nuclear Age

Upon viewing A Child is Crying and hearing that infamous line, “you created me!”, I began to ponder on the U.S. Government’s involvement in trying to recreate children like the little girl in the film. Lily, the child in the film, is a prodigy in math and science and due to her exceptional abilities is considered a “national resource” by the government. In her evaluation it is decided by the congressman and army official that she should be stripped from her family and kept in the laboratory to benefit the nation with her exceptional scientific knowledge. She is essentially robbed of her innocence as a child to act as a resource to U.S. National Security.

By the end of the film Lily is returned to a “regular”, child-like state by use of an antidote that leaves her in shambles, crying with all the men surrounding her forced to view the shattering of her innocence, which they have produced. In the words of the scientist, “all we can do now is stand in the dark and gloom and watch a little child cry”.

The theme of nuclear warfare robbing U.S. citizens of their regularity continues on in the next film, Atomic Attack.  When a nuclear attack is staged on New York City, it is apparent that the “regular” is also disturbed. The eldest child in the house, Barbara, has to assume the role of a mature adult by caring for their boarding guests and her little sister who’s been effected by radiation. When one of the doctor’s in the film remarks that Barbara is just a “kid” and is not equipped to deal with such tumultuous situations her mother replies, “Kids? Not Barbara. Not the way she’s grown up this past week”.

In both films, it is easy to see the shattering of children’s innocence is a main theme—an agenda of desensitizing, if you will. This theme is carried on into reality if you look into the history of the nuclear age.

These films both prompted me to think of the change in the school curriculums when concerning math and science in the nuclear age. I found a book by John L. Rudolph which supported my train of thought. The argument he makes in his book is that the exploitation of education began in the mid-1950s in order to create a society of scientific elitists. Scientific knowledge became the “price of survival” in a country which was now empowered by nuclear weaponry. The life-adjustment curriculum which existed prior to nuclear warfare was now on a steady decline to give way for a focus on math and science education. After the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and into the Cold War, ideals such as, social, personal, and vocational needs previously focused upon in school curriculums were now forgotten and the U.S. Government was geared towards engineering scientific prodigies such as the child in A Child is Crying in order to fuel this nuclear nation—scientific expertise was the National Security arsenal.

In short, the science fiction films, A Child is Crying and Atomic Attack, seem not so fictitious when put into the context of the social reality during the nuclear age. 

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