Section 2 of my shark class met today. Instead of trying to decipher their stony expressions (anxiety, indifference?), I let them write a page describing how they felt about the ocean. One girl told me about her fisherman father who is legally blind and makes his own hooks. Although she is a vegetarian, she respects that her father only catches a fish or two at a time, because it’s better than factory farming. Oh the sheltered bliss of youth! While her father may catch only a poor hapless specimen or two, she has yet to discover the “factory farming of the sea” that is industrial fishing.
Sifting through the narratives of fear of drowning, fear of plankton, joyful memories of the dolphins of Anacapa, I found one student that took an overnight trip to SeaWorld with her seventh grade science honors class and dissected a squid there, another who tried to overcome her fear of sharks by standing in the “shark tunnel” at the aforementioned aqua prison, but confessed, “I didn’t last more than a few seconds without tears rolling down my face. I just can’t face them.” (emphasis mine).
Besides turning every single one of my students against SeaWorld, I look forward to exploring their fear more deeply.
“I just can’t face them,” seems to endow sharks with the power not only to kill, but to see inside the human soul and detect some moral failing there. I thought cats alone possessed this ability.