Monday, May 25, 2009

A Memorial Day Proposal

I was talking with a teacher friend about school holidays in general and Memorial Day in particular. She was pleased that Martin Luther King Day has become a day of community service. Memorial Day seems to be just another long weekend.  She suggested that Memorial Day become a day to teach about war. Every subject contributes to war.  Art like Picasso's Guernica and "I Want You" are an integral part of war. Music enters the controversy with songs as diverse as "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Chemistry and Biology contribute to the weapons of war.  Plus there's the wonderful history of scientists in France and England freely visiting each other's labs while their countries were at war. Physical Education programs could set up an obstacle course and teach about rehabilitation from injuries common to war or a risky teenaged lifestyle. English classes can study the literature of war in different countries.  I'm particularly fond of the Bhagavad Gita in which Arjuna tells Krishna, "I don't want to go to war. I don't want to kill my cousins." And Krishna, ever the teacher, responds, "What? You think if you don't kill them today, they'll live forever?" Arjuna asks all the right questions, and afterwards, he starts the war anyway. History classes can teach the debates that took place before entering wars, the consequences of wars, the misunderstandings that have led to wars.  
War has been glorified and Memorial Day trivialized.  A day of teaching war might be the beginning of a world in which no longer learn war. 
To paraphrase one of the greatest achievements of peace: landing on the moon
One small day for the school year. One large day for the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment