Zombies Are Great Teaching Tools, Ask The Pentagon Essay

You will be glad to know that if a zombie apocalypse did break out, the United States military has a surprisingly thoughtful plan on how to respond.Highlights include:

  • Distinguishing between zombies made through black magic and those made from excessive radiation.
  • Using robots to remotely operate critical infrastructure.
  • Preparing nuclear weapons for use in the United States to eradicate the hordes.

Comfortingly, it does address how to restore civil authority after the threat is gone.

The Pentagon uses a zombie outbreak as a training tool to teach “basic concepts of military plans and order development through a fictional training scenario.”  Which sounds like the coolest class ever.  Sign me up, please!

We can use zombies as teaching tools too. The zombie apocalypse provides an excellent parallel to the disintegration of the Roman Empire in Western Europe.  Central authority breaks down, trade screeches to a halt, regional warlords take control. And while survivors in the Walking Dead always have to keep an eye out for roving zombie packs, survivors in Western Europe soon had something much worse to worry about. Vikings.

In truth, the Walking Dead  does a remarkably accurate job of showing the logic behind the development of small feudal system. It starts when:

  • Barbarians/Zombies cause the collapse of central authority.

The result is the same in the Walking Dead and post-Roman Europe:

  • Travel is not safe
  • Trade screeches to a halt
  • Infrastructure crumbles
  • Food security and safety are paramount
  • Focus is on survival, not creation, art, learning

As a result, we see the development of many of the characteristics of feudalism:

  • The lord/serf social structure develops. People congregate towards those with control of land and armies, who can offer them food and protection. Serfs work their lord’s land, giving him part of the crop. In return he is obligated to protect them.
    Think of Rick and the Governor as lords. Think of Mayberry and the Prison as their feudal estates.
  • Groups make alliances or join together for mutual defense. Rick offered Tyreese and his group a safe place to live at the Prison, and in return they helped protect the whole group. This exactly matches the fief-for-military service exchange of the feudal lord-vassal relationship.
  • With little or no trade, people in Mayberry and the Prison have to supplying their own food/goods, creating a manorial system.

When teaching this, I don’t go into the Walking Dead plot line at all. I simply present them with the zombie apocalypse scenario and ask them “what would you do?” Their answers often describe feudalism exactly. These are the kind of connections that my 7th graders love and understand. It sets the backdrop for me to give them a deeper understanding of feudal oaths and society, and lends its self to productive discussion about the nature of civilization itself.It’s one of my favorite introductory sets I’ve used. I’ve attached the PowerPoint I use here, feel free to steal it, use it, and modify it.

High School
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