List of Universities and Syllabi

First essay topic

CIS 150


In an essay of five pages, due to your Writing Fellow on Friday, September 27, and in final version at the beginning of class on Monday, October 7, react to the following scenario: It is August 6, 2003

It is the fifty-seventh anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. You are teaching history there in an international secondary school. You have been asked to explain the reasons why the United States used the atomic bombs on Japan. You have also been asked your opinion about the reasons for those acts. What is your statement?

Four students seek further clarification of your opinion. One asks whether you think that the bombs would have been dropped on Germany if they had been completed before the war in Europe had ended. Another asserts that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes and should be acknowledged as such. A third argues that those bombs were dropped because of the racism prevalent in the United States. A fourth asks contemptuously how the Nagasaki bomb could ever be justified. What are your responses? What can you point to in order to support your opinions?


We have been reading about horrific acts of the twentieth century. We have also just lived through the first anniversary of a twenty-first century atrocity. Some may question whether there is a purpose for reading about and thinking about such obscenities. Others would contend that these are the essential acts that demand understanding.

But how do you understand them? How would you evaluate the importance of knowing about the Rape of Nanking, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, the fire-bombing of Tokyo, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Can they be compared? Is that a question that should be asked? Does one act justify the next? Explain it? Would you say that one was worse than another? Were they all just “bad deeds?” What judgments would you offer about acts of mass murder and whether we gain something from studying them?

If you say that we do gain something from studying them, be prepared to explain what it is we gain and why it is important to do so. “So it won’t happen again,” is the common answer. But “it” has happened again. And again. And again. So what have we learned?