RCC Honors History Project

Duck and Cover: the Next Generation

Posted by chad612 on June 2, 2009

I think it’s interesting to watch old filmstrips that used to be shown in schools to teach kids because you learn a lot about the values of different eras not only by what they are trying to teach, but how they are trying to simplify the message for children. One of the most “beloved” of these ephemeral films is the Cold War era film Duck and Cover that Hector Tobar mentions in Translation Nation in the following paragraph from chapter five, page 104 (of the hardcover):

“Other Los Angeles schools have fared worse. At the Eastside elementary school where my wife once worked, teachers have resurrected the old “duck and cover” drills from the Atomic Age as an emergency response to the poorly aimed gunplay of local gang members’ when bullets explode outside, the children know to dive under their desks, making a game out of it, giggling while their teachers cast worried eyes toward the windows. When I became a reporter at the Times, I inherited the thankless job foisted on all rookies: rolling out to the scenes of campus homicides to interview grieving classmates and stunned principals, and to reconstruct the path of bullets that somehow ended up in the torsos and skulls of children. For many years, it was hard for me to think of being a mother or a father without remembering the convulsive agony and sorrow of those parents I’d interviewed an hour or a day after they’d lost a son or daughter. One day an editor handed me a three-line dispatch from a wire service called City News. “URGENT: SCHOOL SHOOTING, COMPTON…” A few hours later I sat down in the newsroom to type a story that began with this sentence: “The stray bullet struck and killed 11-year-old Alejandro Vargas as he stood at the heart of his school campus-on the front lawn beneath the flagpole….”

This is a dark modern throwback to the paranoia instilled in school children a few generations ago. One positive note, however: ducking under a desk is a much more effective way to avoid being hit by stray gunfire than a way to survive a nuclear explosion.

Duck and cover video:

A site listing notable school violence for a one year period, including Alejandro Vargas:


City council notes from Inglewood, California (February 10, 2009), including the following excerpt, near the bottom of page 5:

Confidential – Attorney/Client Privileged; Potential Litigation, Government
Code Section 54956.9(b)(1); Claim of Alejandro Vargas.
It was moved by Council Member Morales and seconded by Council Member Franklin
that the City Council does hereby approve, ratify and confirm a settlement in the
Alejandro Vargas case. The motion was carried by the following roll call vote:
Ayes: Council Member Tabor, Dunlap, Morales, Franklin and Mayor Dorn;
Noes: None.



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