Oregon Middle School Class Canceled After Parents Complain

Hermiston, OR – Social studies teacher Rich Harshberger made an effort to creatively deviate from the traditional curriculum and capture the imagination and interest of his middle school students. Something especially difficult for educators to do these days.

Until recently Harshberger was teaching a zombie survival class at Armand Larive Middle School.

The popular extracurricular program examined the viral nature of the zombie disease, approached ways of preparing oneself in the event of an apocalypse, and addressed ways of handling the infected.

Students were assigned the task of keeping survival journals, and The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks, the same writer of World War Z, was required text.

Unfortunately several concerned parents approached the district about the safety and violence, questioning the educational value of the material. They requested the course be terminated.

The zombie curriculum had not been pre-approved for use by state officials; therefore it was canceled with the apologies of district officials and the superintendent to anyone offended by the material.

The educational value? The purpose of using a contemporary theme as an educational tool was utilized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when they produced something similar in their 2011 safety campaign, posting a “Zombie Preparedness” blog, urging people to “Get a kit. Make a plan. Be prepared.”

The point of the blog was to covertly teach the general population about emergency preparation in the event of a disaster or viral outbreak by using a relatable, culturally popular theme.

In addition the CDC posted a “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic” learning tool offering lesson plan ideas for educators. Whether it’s to prepare for an impending zombie apocalypse or an unforeseen detrimental natural disaster, the intent behind the zombie approach is to teach the importance of being organized and ready. Even FEMA utilized the information for educational purposes.


As part of the CDC learning tools, a brief but informative comic is used to outline the initial outbreak of the zombie virus, as the news warns its audience of a “strange virus spreading rapidly,” and suggests gathering further information from the CDC’s website. After printing off an emergency preparedness checklist, a young man goes throughout his home assessing and gathering supplies necessary for basic survival: non-perishable food, water, first aid and hygiene items, batteries, a radio, flashlight, candles, matches, tools, duct tape, and other important provisions.

As part of the CDC history curriculum students are assigned one of several epidemics or disasters and asked to research and compose a brief presentation, and have a discussion on preparedness. Topics include Hurricane Katrina (2005), Polio (1952), and Chernobyl (1986).

Do you think the zombie apocalypse approach is an effective learning tool? Or do you feel the material could potentially be too violent for a middle school class?

[Image via CDC Zombie Preparedness Media Poster]

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