Comics and War: Transforming Perceptions of the Other
through a Constructive Learning Experience

Marnie Jorenby, Assistant Professor of Japanese, Grinnell Colleege
Paper presented at the 2006 AAS Meetings, San Francisco

Abstract
    War has become a media event for spectators who expect 'shock and awe' – and speedy victory.  For the modern soldier, war is a kind of video game where the enemy has no face and death is without meaning. War has a 'new face' that is turned away from its human consequences.
    The thesis of this paper is that our view of war must also undergo a transformation that recognizes the human consequences of military technology.  In the research reported below, role-playing based on a constructivist learning model is employed to alter the perceptions of war held by students in undergraduate liberal arts colleges. Studies conducted in two colleges over a three-year period provide evidence that war experience as mediated by comics and role-playing is a promising methodology for peace educators.


1. The transformation of war

With the advent of modern media and industrial technology in the twentieth century, it
became possible for humans to kill other humans without fighting face to face. This process of dehumanization was dramatically reflected in the soldier's experience of World War I. Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) describes war in the trenches, holes of misery where one is bombarded by an enemy one never meets, and hurls grenades at soldiers one can't see. Numerous intellectuals, including Remarque, Vonnegut and Heller, returned from war to warn us of the inhuman mechanization of modern war through novels such as Catch 22 (1961) and Slaughterhouse Five (1969), and yet with these testaments in front of us, humans continued to make war using weapons that grossly distort human scale (Berkowitz, 2003).
    The poison gas, barbed wire and grenades of the World War I paled in com-parison to the new destructive powers unleashed in World War II. Battleships were made obsolete by submarines and primitive aircraft gave way to jet-propelled fighters. Bombs evolved from an annoyance to a weapon capable of destroying whole cities in the 'atomic age'.  In the last decades, we have seen a further change in the dynamics of war.  Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that modern military power is able to subdue nations in weeks. To American soldiers war is not unlike a video game in which an invulnerable self battles easily killed stooges. In fact, the U.S. Army offers a sophisticated video game that is used in both recruiting and training (U.S. Army, 2005).
    The evolution of war has widened the gap between policy and action. This gap is dramatized by critical communications failures such as the delay in translation of Japan's declaration of war on the eve of Pearl Harbor. Without human engagement, policy is made in a vacuum in which the conditions on the ground are unknown and need not be known.  This results in extreme statements of military leaders such as Curtis LeMay, who spoke of both the Japanese and the North Vietnamese in a dehumanized way: "If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting,” and “We will bomb them back into the stone age," are among his well-known quotes (LeMay & MacKinlay, 1965). Such statements are not limited to radicals like Le May. For instance, on the day the military order to use the atomic bomb was sent to the air force President Truman writes in his diary:
Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as leader of the world for the common welfare  cannot drop this terrible bomb on the old capital (Kyoto) or the new (Tokyo). He (Secretary of     War, Stimson) and I are in accord.  The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning     statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. . . It (the bomb) seems to be the most terrible thing     ever discovered, but it can be made useful.  (McCullough, 1992, 444).
What Truman visualized as a "purely military" target was actually a city populated by tens of thousands of civilians as well as military personnel. In June of 2005 Tadahiko Murata, Hiroshima survivor and political activist, paused before the section displaying "Truman's decision" at the A-Bomb Museum, his face displaying bewilderment. "This is what I want you to see," he said to a group of college professors including the author of this paper. "How could he do it?" (Murata, 2005)  The paradigms of survivor Murata and President Truman can never overlap; to Murata, Truman's act is incomprehensible. To Truman, it was an expedient military technique. For this reason, Hiroshima is actually two discrete, seemingly contradictory experiences. Although Murata and other survivors confronted “hell,” to the American chain of command, from Truman to Paul Tibbits, pilot of the Enola Gay, the dropping of the A-bomb was simply an order to be initiated and carried through.  As Paul Tibbits remarked, "It was all impersonal" (Rhodes, 711).  
    In this age of disassociation between attacker and attacked, the challenge for contemporary educators is to engage students with the reality of war through addressing the vacuum of self and communication created by the high altitude bombing act. The key to the solution is found in Mead's and Habermas's concept of the evolving lifeworld, where one's accustomed frame of reference is expanded into a "wider common world of rational beings (Habermas, 95). Mead states, "I think all of us feel that one must be ready to recognize the interests of others even when they run counter to our own, but that person who does that does not really sacrifice himself, but becomes a larger self” (Ibid, 94).
    Comics and War is dedicated to the goal of creating a "larger self," as a part of an evolved lifeworld. Students actually construct this "wider common world" as a virtual community in which they create historically informed characters, and relive the experience of war. The process by which the human lifeworld is created, in which action becomes symbol, which is internalized and becomes a norm, can be recreated on a basic level.  Through constructing community, students go from vicarious participation in the American high-altitude experience of modern warfare, the vacuum of communicative self, to participation in the lifeworld of the target community. In a sense, this exercise blends "I" (the expressively manifested subjectivity of a desiring and feeling nature) with "Me," a character shaped by social roles. (Habermas, 99) The student as s/he is upon entering the class is like “I,” and the character who emerges from the model society is “me.” In other words, the class completes a process in which each student must transform the familiar “I” of his/her everyday experience into a “me” who has come to terms with the frame of reference of 1940s Japan and been integrated into the lifeworld of that time.
    The objective of this learning experience is transformation-not necessarily dramatic change in politics or point of view, but the transformation of personal views of war and its consequences. (Miller and Ramos, 1999)  Using a constructivist learning model, students acquire a detailed knowledge of the human cost of modern warfare in the specific context of Hiroshima, and to use their knowledge to think critically about contemporary wars that may follow similar patterns. Students achieve a deeper understanding of the mechanics of war, the experiences of other people during other times in history, and the similarity of basic human experience, no matter the time and place.
2. The community building process

    Comics and War draws from several sources to create a community building structure emphasizing the communicative act. Students create a lifeworld, a miniature community which becomes their frame of reference during the course. The process of community building draws on several sources: Rainey and Kolb’s description of transformative education (Rainey and Kolb, 1995), Bruner’s spiral model of constructivist learning (Bruner, 1960), and Moon’s work on experiential learning models (Moon, 2004).  The Comics and War learning experience is framed according to the learning model shown below (Copa and Ammentorp,1998, 16), which reflects many of the ideas inherent in the above theories of learning.
 
                       Figure 1
2.a. Reflection
As seen in Figure 1, Copa and Ammentorp’s learning model describes a repeating cycle of learning. Bruner describes this cycle as a spiral in which students continually build upon what they have already learned (Bruner 1960, 13)
    The Hiroshima Project begins with reflection, which Ammentorp and Copa is “the starting point and the ending point of the learning cycle” (16). Moon (2004) defines reflection as, “. . .a form of mental processing--- like a form of thinking--- that we may use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome. . .” (Moon, 82). According to Moon, reflective practice can achieve a transformation of thought when “applied to relatively complicated, ill-structured ideas for which there is not an obvious solution. . .” Reflection is “largely based on the further processing of knowledge and understanding that we already possess” (ibid, 82). At the start of the course, students are presented with a variety of materials on war and peace in general and on Japanese history, tradition and beliefs in particular. The main sources of material are Japanese graphic novels (manga) such as Tezuka Osamu’s “Ichi no tani,” a selection from his multi-volume work Firebird (1978) that retells Minamoto Yoshitsune’s famed descent of a steep cliff on horseback. These graphic novels dramatize history in a visual form to which contemporary students are accustomed. Unlike American comics, which remain a fringe genre, they speak with social authority about Japanese culture. Ito notes how integral manga are to Japanese society when she states, “Manga thus reflects the reality of Japanese society, along with the myths, beliefs, rituals, tradition, fantasies, and Japanese way of life. Manga also depicts other social phenomena, such as social order and hierarchy, sexism, racism, ageism, classism, and so on” (Ito, 456).  In the class, manga are chosen that question social norms and traditions and introduce multiple voices. For instance, “Ichi no tani,”, questions the traditional view of Yoshitsune as a hero by telling the story through the eyes of the fictional character Benta, Yoshitsune’s much-abused right hand man.      
    Manga, if carefully selected, provide students with accurate, well-researched visual models of Japanese culture that stimulate reflection on cultural difference. In particular, manga images of daily life in Kobe and Hiroshima in scenes from Tezuka Osamu’s Telling Adolph and Nakazawa Keiji’s Barefoot Gen (1978) provide invaluable details of clothing, architecture, tools, etc.
    The collection of materials initially presented to students aims to be a stimulating collection of “ill-structured ideas” whose complexity must be dealt with through reflection.
This reflection occurs through activities such as discussion, reflective essays and sketching. Some of the specific tasks required of students are to assimilate their internal experience of war with the external experience provided by the class, to distinguish “many figures from many grounds,” by invoking different frames of reference” (Moon, 2004). Participating in these reflective activities and learning terminology such as that given above prepares students to be self-critical as they begin the task of character creation.
2.b. Engagement
    Engagement, “a motivational state where the learner’s attention is directed principally to the task at hand,” (Copa and Ammentorp 1998, 16) occurs when students form groups and begin developing their character. As students proceed from information gathering to the task of character creation, they follow the pattern of transformative education, a component of ELT (experiential learning theory). In ELT prehension, knowing by taking in data, transitions to “transformation, knowing through modification of data.” (Rainey and Kolb, 130) The “active experimentation” essential to the process of transformation takes place as groups discuss and revise characters.
    Simultaneously students enter what Carnes, creator of the Reacting to the Past role-playing series for learning history (Carnes, 2004) describes as a “world of liminality—that threshold region where the normal rules of society are suspended or subverted” (Carnes, B6) According to Carnes, the “world of liminality” encourages “imaginative expressiveness.” The comics and war classroom is a liminal classroom where the rules of “society,” as represented by the college community, are suspended: physics majors become apprentice cartoon artists, liberals explore the thinking of Japanese nationalists.
    Students begin the character creation process by researching their character’s occupation, which is chosen from a list of occupations practiced in Hiroshima at that time. They also create a “back-story,” one or two pages describing their character’s personality, family, formative experiences, etc. This back-story is the first thing to be posted on individual web sites. After completing the back-story, students create a sketch of their character. Such character creation is familiar to almost all of the students, as they have followed a similar process creating characters in arcade games, Game Boy, Nintendo, etc. as children and teens. Although character creation for class is a more demanding intellectual exercise, students already have a paradigm to guide them. To aid them, they receive a “Character Kit,” a packet containing examples of cartoon techniques used in manga, as well as photographs of wartime dress such as kokuminfuku (citizens uniforms), monpei (workpants) and other garments. Students have freedom in portraying their character, but must abide by certain restrictions intended to increase engagement with historical detail.  
    As they progress through the creation of their character, students are transforming their thinking about Japan, Hiroshima and war. Specifically, they “formulat(e) more dependable beliefs about (their) experience, assess their contexts, and seek informed agreement on their meaning and justification, then make decisions on the resulting insights.” (Mizerow 4) This process plays out visually as they create their characters. Initially, the students choose to garb their characters in outfits familiar from stereotypes of Asian culture, such as kimono, karate uniforms, and even coolee hats. As they dress their characters in citizens uniforms from the 1940s, students discover realities about Japanese life at the time: kimonos were not the usual daily wear; Japan was not a land of karate dojos, etc. These discoveries lead students to ask basic questions about daily lifestyle, and to fill in the gaps with their expanding knowledge. They thus “construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of (their) experience as a guide to future action” (ibid, 5) This self-correcting process continues throughout the class. Spring 2005 Comics and War student David expresses the process in the following way:
     In terms of assuming the identity of a Japanese person, it was this very interesting sort of back and forth in that on one hand you’re like, well now I understand what it’s like, because I’ve done all this reading, so I can make a character, and then you’re like oh, wait, clearly I don’t understand, this is impossible to understand, so then you go back, but you’re like, I have to understand, because I have to turn this in! And, it’s the sort of like back and forth and eventually I found this balance where I felt like my character was Japanese and I was my character, even if I wasn’t Japanese.
    The goal of character creation is for students to achieve “mindful learning” (Langer 1997, 4), the “continuous creation of new categories, openness to new information, and an implicit awareness of more than one perspective. Molly, David’s classmate and fellow group member, reflects on her approach to developing her character Shizuko. New information caused her to shift the voice with which she spoke through her character:
I definitely realized, maybe a month or two in, that it wasn’t realistic. I was like, this is pretty much how I would be if I were Japanese, I wouldn’t care about my husband, I would be anti-nationalistic, and eventually I had to realize that that’s just not true, so definitely she (Shizuko) went from something very one-dimensional, like, fake me imposing my ideals on a person. . .that was pretty tricky, having to assume this feeling of shame and subordination. . .”

    Here, Molly’s learning process required that she add another cultural frame of reference into the development of her character. Only at that point could the character become multi-dimensional. Comics and War seeks this sort of transforming experience. Although the class is intended as peace and tolerance education, it is not necessary for students to change their overall political stance in order for learning to take place and tolerance to grow. It is, however, desirable that they deepen their view of other cultures, in the process experiencing “cognitive dissonance,” the “often uncomfortable situations—in which new material of learning is in conflict with the learner’s cognitive structure” (Festinger, 1957). This can be a difficult and sometimes painful process. “Transformative learning, especially when it involves subjective reframing, is often an intensely threatening emotional experience in which we have to become aware of both the assumptions undergirding our ideas and those supporting our emotional responses to the need to change” (Mizerow, 6) The setting of 1940s Japan provides an unthreatening context in which students can reflect on their own perspectives without clashing directly with their peers. Because World-War II style Japanese nationalism is for the vast majority of students a belief from the distant past, trying it on for size is a learning-game that can be played without exposing one’s own positions on contemporary issues. As David puts it, “Who’s going to say they agree with the aims of Japan in 1945?”
    Students are asked to question their newly-assumed nationalism through several exercises. These were some of the most productive exercises for students, but also the most difficult. During spring of 2005, students were given readings on the Nanjing Massacre and asked to imagine themselves as a Japanese soldier involved in the killing of Chinese citizens. When questioned regarding the assignment, both David and Molly attested to the importance of such challenging exercises. “It’s things like that that need to happen a lot,” remarked David. “It’s the sort of things that make people uncomfortable that force them to engage. You can’t be passive in a class where something is upsetting you.” Exercises such the one involving Nanjing and another introducing a Korean perspective address the pitfall of identifying with the victim rather than the aggressor, a common path of least resistance in studying war atrocities.
2.c. Involvement
    Involvement occurs when “learners are involved in social exchanges where they first identify points for learning. Involvement provides opportunities for developing social skills and value clarification” (Copa and Ammentorp, 17). In Comics and War, ongoing social exchanges take place in four or five groups representing neighborhoods of Hiroshima. The way in which this process occurs varies according to the learning style of the individual, and is facilitated by the group structure of the class. As in ELT, Comics makes use of “‘learning teams’ that meet during the formal structure of the class as well as outside of class. As Rainey and Kolb remark, “Time constraints, class size, and other related factors do not allow for the appropriate and thorough processing of student experience within the classroom setting. Learning teams allow for continued processing of experience and serve as support groups for identification of goals and monitoring of progress toward goal achievement” (Rainey and Kolb, 144).
    The experiences of Molly and David demonstrate how group communication assists role-players in processing new experiences and shapes the act of character creation. Molly initially created a complex female character who reflected a theme of interest to her, “the extreme of male domination and female submission.” In addition, she made her character Shizuko barren to add a dimension of depth and loss to her personality. Molly explained that it was through interaction with another member of the group, Akane (a schoolgirl) that Shizuko’s character began to come to life. “She was already very embittered, and the only other female in the group was Akane. . .that was where Shizuko grew the most, by playing off Akane. . .” The character of Akane also came to define David’s character, a tatooer and social outcast. “My character became identified largely by my little sister.” Akane’s naïve nationalism reflected the mood of Japanese society at the time, and forced fellow group members to engage with nationalist thinking on a personal level.
    It was a “cloud” character who turned out to be most instrumental in facilitating communication amongst Molly and David’s group. The cloud definitely was a really good character to have,” commented Molly. “. . .it acted like an intermediary. Out story was kind of sprawling. . .I never left my house, and was looked down on in society because I didn’t have any children, and then Danika was the tattoo artist, who was looked down on by society, and then Eisei was this, like, loner, and Akane was the idealistic girl who didn’t fit in with the rest of the group and, like, Marcus’s character, Isagi, was just crazy. . .So the cloud kind of like, for the first part before we all got involved, acted as our connection. . .”  
    Besides spoken communication in groups, communication also takes place through visiting the Hiroshima community web page. The groups are each given a location on the class web page, and their work is stored in class project folders. The web interface, in the form of a map of Hiroshima where each group’s neighborhood is clickable, provides several advantages: students can visit other groups’ sites and view their responses to class assignments; they also have a forum for addressing the class and displaying their own work.  
    The website is ideally suited to the “spiral” learning process described by Bruner (1960). The class-run website leads students to constantly review and re-evaluate what they have already learned, sustaining the model of engagement, involvement, construction and reflection. The website pages students create serve as a physical manifestation of the spiral learning process. Sites are regularly viewed, criticized and updated by peers and by the instructor. Each page centers around a well, a symbol of order and tolerance among neighbors who must share it. From the well page, students can click to enter the house of each neighbor. The houses keep growing as assignments are added and posted on the page, so, at the risk of being over-literal, the arrangement resembles an ever-widening spiral which can be negotiated by the click of a mouse. Students can see how their understanding has evolved, and how their characters have progressed compared to their peers.
    Initially, web pages are developed according to a uniform template: the character history and character sketch are posted first, with assignments following later in sequence. Once they have established the web page, students are given freedom to develop it as they wish. As the course progresses, students complete a series of individual and group online exercises where they respond in character to readings about the war. For instance, after reading Dower on the portrayal of the Japanese in Allied wartime propaganda (Dower 1986) students “post” their rebuttal to the racist images as a group of Japanese citizens. In another assignment, the “Well Incident,” neighborhoods meet to discuss an incident where a young, married woman in the village was seen consorting with a socialist University student and reading aloud revolutionary poetry. In another assignment, the group must identify a “traitor” from within its own members and turn him or her into the military police. This became the definitive exercise of the class for David and Molly’s group:


David: “I thought that for us the class really came together this one night. . .
Molly: We went outside to see what we would do (about naming the traitor). . .well, we all decided to protect him rather than turn him in. . .this was basically the cloud’s decision. . .
David: The cloud was very benevolent. . .
Molly: So we spent one night first live-action role playing and then afterwards we all got together outside the Forum and just illustrated the whole thing that had just happened.
 David: I brought all the art supplies I had in my room and we just destroyed them onto like eight sheets of paper. . .
    The group’s treatment of Akane during this exercise was a particularly effective example of live action role-playing in which the student who played Akane, Sarah, was actually turned out of the room (“sent off to the well”) during the traitor discussion. The group had entered into their roles to the extent that Sarah physically became Akane; both the fictional Akane and the actual Sarah were protected from unpleasant topics they were too immature to hear.
2.d. Construction
    “Construction means that students and teachers collaborate to produce knowledge as well as tangible products of knowledge” (Copa and Ammentorp, 18). The Hiroshima community is “under construction” throughout the course. By constructing characters, artifacts, and writings and by participating in neighborhood discussions and projects, students organize both themselves and their worlds. Construction of projects such as web pages, character sketches, and rituals is the core concept of Comics and War. Unlike in Carnes’ Reacting to the Past method (2004), students are not totally committed to portraying their character as s/he historically existed. Instead, they create a character who is a balance of historical fact and personal creative choice. The goal is to enter the historical situation of Hiroshima as a permutation of oneself, in order to intensify the experience. Students’ current persona—including their philosophy, moral concerns, and beliefs, are set in tension with the historical setting and beliefs of the time.
    The construction element of the course demands intense participation from students. At first some students reported feeling overwhelmed with the complexity of the assignment, but once the groups gained a sense of themselves as neighborhoods, the characters took on a reality of their own and developed organically. Each group began by attaching character pages to a group page organized around a central image. Photographs were used, as well as the rising sun flag, a comic book page with close-ups of all of the group members, and a community bulletin board. Each group expressed their personality through their style and method of posting assignments and information. Initially, postings tended to be in essay form, but as role-playing increased in intensity and students’ conception of their neighborhoods became more complex, web postings transitioned to dialogues, illustrated fragments of speech, poems, drawings, diaries, etc. Students experimented by drawing their peers’ characters and redrawing their own characters to express the mental and spiritual changes they were undergoing. Molly and David’s group were particularly innovative; they frequently re-conceptualized their role playing activities for the web page as illustrations or dialogues in which icons of characters were pictured alongside their comments.
    While the variations are too numerous to mention in detail, the websites created at Gustavus Adolphus College during 2003, 2004 and the 2005 website created at Grinnell form a library of potential solutions to website community organization that can serve as a basis for web building activities in the future.
    In addition to character development, assignments and website work, students also create artifacts that reflect their character’s personalities and values. In the past, students have chosen diverse objects such as shrines, hairpins, kimono, go boards, cherry blossoms and flags to embody what they value most. Each student accompanies the artifact with a paragraph describing its significance.
    The climax of Comics and War is a burning ritual in which students destroy all records of their character. In this unusual culmination of the construction section of the course, students ruminate on the significance of their lifeworld through participating in its destruction. Although the loss of emotional investment, in the form of drawings and writing, can never approach the experience of death, students often find it more difficult than expected to part with the identity they have created over the course of several months.     Many students testified to the power of the ritual, which they designed themselves. The burning began with groups reading their witness narratives to each other, telling of the events their character experienced on August 6, 1945.  The witness presentations take place in the group, and the design of the ritual is also a group responsibility. The 2005 burning ritual included reading tanka, Japanese poems, exchanging a cup of water, the traditional Japanese drink of parting, and scattering blossoms on fallen neighbors.
    Student involvement peaks during the witness narrative and burning ritual. The reading of witness narratives is the final meeting students will have with their group. One student wrote, “Our group meeting, prior to the burning, was extremely solemn. My group-mates surprised me with their eloquence, and more than once I was brought to tears, though I was careful to hide it. . .”  By burning students’ characters and drawings, the class seeks to in a small way evoke the complete destruction of the city of Hiroshima on the day the A-bomb was dropped. Students dealt with the intensity of the moment in their own way. “It was a turning point in my friendships with people. . .,” recalls David. “It was just a really intense personal moment. . .it affected me both on the level of my character and myself.”
    After meeting in groups, the students all gathered in a circle around the fire where their drawings were to be burned, then each took a turn coming to the center. Emotions ran high. One student writes, “. . .I seemed to lapse in and out of consciousness as the burning progressed. . .slowly drifting into a liminal space between time and the imaginary. . .my classmates were not just my classmates. My good friends as well as strangers made the same impression on me. I felt I was seeing a new aspect of their being. . .”
    In the wake of the ritual, students experience a sense of loss. “After the experience, many of us lingered on the field. I myself felt that we didn’t yet want the experience to end.” The objective of the exercise is for students to experience a small taste of loss and parting, and privately to reflect on the tremendous scale of personal loss involved in an event such as the dropping of an atomic bomb.
    After the burning, the class continues for another week. Although the emotional climax of the class has passed, students are now fully engaged with the topic and ready to discuss their “personal” experience in a more generalized way. This closing experience of reflection on such issues as the ethics of nuclear war and the possibility of a “positive peace” begins a new cycle of learning that can be continued beyond the class.
3. Conclusion
    Comics and War draws on a variety of sources for its learning paradigm: Copa and Ammentorp’s learning model of reflection, engagement, involvement and construction, Bruner’s principles of constructivist learning, Mizerow’s conception of transformative learning, Rainey and Kolb’s ELT, Moon’s discussion of reflective learning and Habermas’ vision of the evolving lifeworld. These educational visions all help to describe the process used in Comics and War to achieve the goal of transforming and diversifying students’ points of view. At the end of the course, the students should have achieved a deeper understanding of the reality of war and transformed their world views. However, the learning that takes place in Comics and War is not an end in itself. Mizerow notes, quoting Bellah (1985), that the eventual goal of transformative learning is to encourage ‘democratic habits of the heart’: respect for others, self-respect, willingness to accept responsibility for the common good, willingness to welcome diversity and to approach others with openness” (Mizerow, 14). During the final week of the course, students reflect on selections from Barash and Webel’s Peace and Conflict Studies (2002) and are encouraged to discuss how they might make “action decisions” based on the insights gathered in the class (ibid, 8).
    In spring of 2006 a new dimension will be added to the community experience that addresses the above goals of “approaching others” and making “active decisions.” Grinnell students will be paired with university students in Hiroshima, who will practice English through consulting with students on their characters, and serving as local experts on the history and culture of Hiroshima. The intention is to foster direct and lasting relationships that may develop into action in the future.
    In his discussion of the ‘authority of the sacred,’ Habermas outlines a point in the process of the “linguistification of the sacred” where “the socially integrative and expressive functions that were at first fulfilled by ritual practice pass over to communicative action (77). In the case of Hiroshima, for many years the city itself, with its many monuments, has been a holy site. Although the worth of Hiroshima as a monument is immense, its terrible silence also keeps us from drawing too close to the keep of the holy. There is a core of silence that can be intimidating to penetrate. Encouraging students to enter and populate this silent territory is a bold move that could be taken as disrespectful. As David remarks, “how could we ever understand?” And yet, without traveling at least part of the road toward understanding the holy, the holy will eventually transition into the forgotten, the opposite intention of those who seek to respect and remember. Despite many issues yet to be discussed and hurdles remaining to overcome, Comics and War advocates approaching the unspeakable—even though one cannot pretend to have achieved understanding. Through the planned collaboration with Hiroshima university students, this coming spring’s class will connect with the reality of contemporary Hiroshima, now a city of words, plans, values and ideas. Through forming ties between an American generation and a Japanese generation, both of whom are dissociated from the past and its memories, the class seeks to transform gaps in understanding into productive relationships that will have an effect on society to come.




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