It's interesting to me how things arrive in timely, coordinated ways - touches of synchronicity.
I've written the last couple of blogs about the conflict of the 1960s, some I was not aware of at the time, and of course, the one that was treacherously close, Viet Nam.
Yesterday I read a hopeful article in a back issue of The Smart Set from Drexel University. Written by Dwight Simon who is an eighth-grade history teacher, the article explains that it's natural to frame a nation's story line on its moments of greatest conflict and change - revolution and war, for example. But in teaching, it might be a disservice to students and society. In covering those moments of conflict and change, we may be unintentionally glorifying and even perpetuating violence as a redemptive force.
This makes perfect sense to me. In part, Simon says: "...we have perhaps tried too hard to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice."
The Americal Revolution, the Civil War, World War II, and the Viet Nam or Vietnam War, are traditional ways of capturing the arc of United States history. What changed Dwight Simon's mind was a critique of American's love affair with war, written by Drew Gilpin Faust - noted historian and Harvard president. Simon wrote: "Faust's scholarship forces historians [and us] into the uncomfortable work of reassessing their assumptions about war [and] how war stories are told."
As a responsible educator, Simon made some change in his approach to teaching history. He gave greater attention to the pain, torture, and death that accompany combat. The curriculum accurately portrayed the statistics of casualty, photos of the battlefields, and personal narratives from soldiers reflecting their personal negative or ambiguous perspective of war's worth.
Instead of emphasizing the "noble purpose", sentimental stories, and justification for mass killing, his history courses reflect a more balanced view of war. It's my guess that some of the youth he teaches will have a fuller understanding of the trauma of violence and war because of Simon's commitment to the moral obligations of his profession: ethical teaching.