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School Shuts Down Teacher’s Zombie Survival Class

School Shuts Down Teacher’s Zombie Survival Class

What can teachers do to get their students interested in reading and language arts? Maybe planning class materials with a zombie theme would be a step in the right direction. And that’s exactly what Rich Harshberge, a middle school teacher in Hermiston, Oregon, did. But the administration at the middle school where he works canceled the extracurricular “zombie survival” class because of the unapproved curriculum.

Despite the popularity of the class, the school issued a statement on their website that states:

“The use of zombie-related materials is unfortunate and was not approved in accordance with district curricular policies… We extend our regrets to anyone offended by their use (

Zombies 101

Taking a standard school subject and turning it on its ear by pairing it with an interesting or unexpected element is an approach to learning often found in college classes. A few off-the-wall college courses featured on include iPhone Application Development (Stanford University), Tree Climbing (Bingham University), and even Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse – Catastrophes and Human Behavior (Michigan State University).

Harshberge’s attempt to bring a little humor to a middle school reading class clearly ruffled some feathers, despite the success of the class in getting students engaged in the material. Let’s hope that his enthusiasm and innovation inspires other teachers to think about ways to spice up their own classes in a way that keeps the administration at bay.

Zombies in literature

Supernatural creatures and literature sometimes go hand-in-hand, as books such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter have shown. And like it or not, the monster/literature mash-up trend is here to stay — and perfect for getting book-averse middle schoolers interested in reading.

Harshberge’s innovative approach to a language arts class may have taken advantage of some of the zombie literature that is hot right now. Here are five great examples of good zombie reading, for anyone who is a fan of The Walking Dead, or wants to be prepared in case of a real life zombie attack.

1. The Zombie Survival Handbook: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks

2. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

3. As the World Dies (trilogy) by Rhiannon Frater

4. The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead by Roger Ma

5. Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry


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Photo credit: Michael R Perry

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9:03PM PDT on Apr 9, 2013

Yes, by all means stop the creative, innovative teacher who gets his students interested in reading. We can't have any of that now can we?

Oh by the way, regarding the reading list. Brooks is excellent (particularly "World War Z"); Frater's trilogy is also outstanding (and told from a female point of view), with a refreshing "feminist tilt); Maybury's work on the other hand, I would not recommend.

9:06AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013

I'm a Mom, I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I think if a kid likes that subject, then this book is a good way to introduce them to litterature. I find that reading (of almost any kind) leads to more reading, and that is good. Who knows? Maybe some of those kids will be interested in reading the real Pride and Prejudice when they come across it.

6:56AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013

And they'll be the first to cry and be sorry when the zombies do attack! And who will they turn to then??

6:20AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013


11:22PM PDT on Apr 7, 2013


10:55AM PDT on Apr 7, 2013

I actually thought his zombie class was an inventive way to have students really pay attention. Had they had that kind of class back when I was in school, I would have fought to be in it!

11:56AM PDT on Apr 6, 2013

No one unit is right for all students at all times. This is April and Poetry month, included in many English and ELA classes. Have I found that my students don't like poetry? Yes. Does that stop me from teaching it? No.

This teacher tried something --in my opinion interesting-- that the administration shut down. Was the administration of the school and school district telling Mr. Harschberg and his fellow teachers, students and all the students in the school and the school district, not to try anything new? Yes, I believe they were. Maybe that wasn't their intended lesson, but that's what I read.

I am a big fan of The Walking Dead, the television show and the graphic novels and the novel novels. I wouldn't show any of the tv series to middle school students at school. It has graphic and gory violence, but it's not about the violence. It's about how one goes in in this situation. But first I read World War Z. That novel, which purposely reads like a Studs Terkel oral history, *isn't* about zombies, but governments, responsibilty and consequences and *hope.*

In a time when we are spending waaay too much attention and money on standardized tests, teaching a unit on zombies to middle schoolers might be very beneficial.

7:19PM PDT on Apr 5, 2013

Alright ya'll, lets get serious.
I'm a 16 year old sophomore.
& that's just stupid. No offense to all ya'll, no. I mean, putting classes out there that would help with skills and leadership and all that other survival shit is alright. But directed to zombies.. really, if I found out my little sister, a middle schooler, had a class like this, I'd be furious. Its a waste, give them classes that'll give them REAL credits towards highschool/college.

5:06PM PDT on Apr 5, 2013

That was stupid. Teaching process may be boring, why not add some fun?

2:16PM PDT on Apr 5, 2013

Thats ridiculous

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