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High school students leave a tough question unanswered

Four young men who went through the school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program have died in combat. Their instructor keeps their memories close.

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How many can name a city in Afghanistan?

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This time, four hands.

"Kabul," says one student.

"That's what I was going to say," another says.

Why are we at war in Afghanistan?

"Because of the attacks of 9/11," a boy replies.

And Iraq?

"Honestly, that's something I don't know," he says. "Oil, maybe. Helping companies in America. But I'm not sure if that's true."

Shanahan is disappointed but not surprised. Her students have spring fever. It's just before lunch, the day of the senior banquet at Dave & Buster's, the day before Senior Skip Day.

War isn't foremost on their minds. College is. Posters in the hallway steer students toward a bright future on the manicured campuses of Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and Bates. New York University has a study abroad program in Shanghai. "Have you registered for the ACT or SAT?" a flier asks. "Don't wait."

The students are closer to puberty than the legal drinking age. What would they know of war?

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