War. What is it good for?

Posted on 08/03/2011 in misc

I left this as a comment on Google +, but it got long enough to become a blog post on its on, so I'm sharing it here too. The article linked below is a middle school teacher thinking out loud about how we teach history in the US. It's mostly about the wars, and the greater good that results from America's forays into war. He is questioning whether or not we are doing it right.

My son used to want to be a Marine, until he started studying history (mostly wars) in depth. He quickly realized that there is nothing glorious about war. I don't know how anybody could read The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock by Frank O’Reilly, with its horrifying first person accounts of the carnage on the battlefield, and come out the other side of that book anything but anti-war. Really, any first person account of infantry level war that I've ever read has been absolutely, mind-numbingly, horrifying. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E.B. Sledge is a another one that is so distressing and horrifying I can't imagine how anybody endured it and survived sane.

I don't think structuring history around the wars is bad, for better or worse, wars are cataclysmic events that often have a huge impact on history. But instead of just teaching the 20,000 foot view of who did what and why, and who won, we should dig into the personal side of war. It's ugly, and it'll turn the whole class into pacifists :)

If I was conspiracy minded, I might suggest that the school planners are very aware of this, which is why the history of wars is taught at such an impersonal level. A generation of pacifists is not what the government wants out of the school system.

The Smart Set: Classroom Wars - July 27, 2011.

And since I went there with the title of this post, enjoy some Edwin Starr.

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