I associate Alas, Babylon with my junior-high drafting classroom and Mr. G., a slight, irascible man with red hair, Apollo-era black horn rims and an attitude toward adolescents that seemed perplexing given his chosen profession. On Wednesdays after lunch period, he taught what my school called a mini-course, a half hour elective in a subject in which a given teacher was expert or, in the case of Mr. G., obsessed. Mr. G.'s topic of choice was nuclear war and the effects of nuclear weaponry on buildings and people. So, for a good two months during the spring of 1973, I spent many early afternoons at a drafting table with a compass, drawing concentric rings around population centers, within which there would be total destruction, moderate destruction and some loss of life, or relatively few effects except for mild radiation poisoning. For me and eight or so other young men, this was a delightful respite from the well-known agony that middle school and its social constructs inflict on young people everywhere.
I think it served a similar purpose for Mr. G. During drafting class, which was part of the Industrial Arts curriculum that Washington Junior High offered as a counterpart to Home Economics, Mr. G presided over what could only be called slightly contained anarchy. In contrast to those teachers who command total control, and those who wield a facade of control and endure whispered derision, Mr G at some point lost hold of the dynamic that keeps teachers and students from . ... Drafting ink was spilled. Fires started in waste baskets. Profane words burst into open. Kids were sent to detention every day. At least once a week, Mr. G would erupt into a lecture of ultimatums, delivered at great volume, after which no speaking or noises would tolerated. But giggles would follow. Mr G's ears wold turn red.
Nuclear Destruction class was different. We wanted to be there. And Mr. G seemed to