WW2 History in schools?

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by 17thDYRCH, Sep 15, 2010.

  1. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    A senior lecturer would say to us- the point or argument cannot stand unless it has been exposed to scrutiny. If I agree or not is not the point - I could remind people that we have been in Afghanistan before now and we have always been sent home. I can talk of the defence of Hougoumont Farm. Many children of the Victorian era would have known about these events in history. Another era produces history which is of more interest to that age and their young who hear the tales. We are in time moving away from the events that my father served and my mother lost a brother. My father a pre war regular thought the war was an abomination - I can hand on heart say he never watched a war film, he would say -' was there from day one at the full dress rehearsal!' To the young of today other events are more relevant - one of my granddaughters asked me about Northern Ireland and other places -truth? Just like my father I look back at an abomination - visited on some of the most generous, bright and hospitable people. I have spent a lifetime - 14 year old cadet/TA/regular army and back home to the TA as a 55 year old desk jockey training officer now retired. Problem is with many people they mistake history for glorification and truth be told, some - tend to glorify what is after all the worst of human failings. Many more people today are anti war, right or wrong only time will tell, we have to accept that.

    Some will say we must look at past events to prevent them happening again, there is not a wealth of proof for this theory - the war to end all wars, was not! This is just one of the arguments that needs a reply. We cannot just demand the study of something because we make a study of it.
     
  2. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    im sure everyone here will agree that this subject is massively important. surely it should be an in depth compulsary part of our kids education.

    These are meaningless demands unless you're willing to set out what should be sacrificed in order to achieve them. Certainly, the Second World War is an important historical subject. But so are many others. Why should it, alone, receive uniquely 'in-depth' coverage? What does that even mean, anyway? How many weeks, months, years, would satisfy you? (Personally I can't imagine anything more likely to bore and frustrate schoolchildren than having the war crammed down their throats over and over again.)

    Let me give you my own perspective as someone who does teach the Second World War in an 'in-depth' way at the collegiate level. I don't particularly care if students come into my classroom with little prior knowledge of the subject. That's my job, after all. What I wish they had - and what I wish all educated citizens had - was a better broad and rounded knowledge of history: a better grasp of the big chronological picture, so that they can fit the specific episode of the war into the larger story of the past.

    For instance, before I teach them what happened in 1939 I want them to know, at some cursory level, anyway, what the big events of the preceding two centuries had been - nationalization, industrialization, imperialism - which established the context for the war. Without that, all that minutiae of who actually fought whom, and where, and when, is just going to be so much tedious and bewildering junk. History is about more than a list of 'facts.' It's about understanding long-term processes: why things happened they way they did. And for that, you need the big mental canvas, upon which the fascinating but incidental details can be sketched later on. That's what I wish schools were doing a better job of.

    Best, Alan
     
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  3. Pieter F

    Pieter F Very Senior Member

    In Holland history lessons at school are set up as follows:

    - the timeline is seperated in 10 blocks
    - during their time at school, pupils will go trough the timeline three times (primary school, first years secondary school and last years secondary school).
    - one of the ten blocks is called: The time of World Wars

    But..
    - A lot of primary schools do not teach history (some of my pupils in the 1st and 2nd class of secondary school only did watch some movies in their 'historylessons' at primary school).
    - Not all programs in the last years of secondary school include history.

    So, some pupils have learnt about the world wars three times, others only one single time.
     
  4. pauldawn

    pauldawn Senior Member

    i must admit i didnt expect this subject to be as contentious as its turned out to be.

    i can only talk about my own experiences and those of my own kids. My kids have certainly not been given the insight into the reasons for, the actual events and the reprocussions of the two WW's This is i think is tragic. Its very simple in my own mind - If we dont make our own kids aware of the results of WAR then how the hell can we expect their generations to avoid walking into the same mire!?

    If my kids are not receiving the education on this subject then im sure there are many others that dont either.

    People here have said how they were taught "War stuff" in either a very bad or very sketchy manner. perhaps this is why we have political leader, after political leader, still sending young men and women into futile wars. perhaps, if they themselves were ever taught the consequences and REALLY understood what it was all about these things would never happen. maybe im being naive?!

    We all know in this country what a lottery, education and NHS can be but surely a structured and even compulsary WW education wont be a bad thing, if only to teach the MISTAKES made by previous and current generations.

    War after war after war, we still seem unable to realise that its futile and rarely if ever achieves all of its goals. Surely the more education on this subject must be a good thing!?
     
  5. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    When I left school in 1973, my abiding memory of history lessons, was how boring they were. Looking back now, we were not taught modern history and I can recall we did not get past Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada.

    All I knew about WW2, was a 2 volume book by Odhams on the bookshelf at home. Published in 1951, my Brother gave it to me a couple of weeks ago.

    My Parents never spoke about the war, as one took part in it and the other was in Nazi occupied Netherlands. I can also recall going on a coach trip to Arnhem with my Dutch Grandparents and my Parents when I was about 11 years old. We went to the cemetery at Arnhem Oosterbeek, but neither of them explained who were buried there and why. I can recall no one said very much at all during the trip.
     
  6. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Sadly teaching about war has no bearing on future conflicts,many of the people who went off to war in 1939 would have known about the great war. Young conscripts sent to Korea would have been educated first hand about warfare. Soldiers and the people do not go to war, politicians do that, they do so without regard to history lessons taught in schools.
     
  7. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    I have to agree with Roberts comments as I too was not taught anything about WW2.

    Perhaps this was due to all the children in our years having parents that took part in the War and it just wasn't talked about.

    I remember one of my class friends and had a father that walked with a limp and on asking found out that, as a soldier, he lost a leg during the war.

    Perhaps it was just too recent to be taught as History at the time.

    I do not know how typical this was as I left school in 1966, but would be interested to hear from other members.

    Having said all that I was a frequent visitor to the local library, where I worked on my homework in peace and quiet and also had a fondness for Aeroplanes, History and geography.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  8. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I have to say that when I had the help of my two best mates in getting to the places, the lectures were in high demand ...Probably would be today...If I was not such a flaming wreck.
    Sapper
     
  9. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    i must admit i didnt expect this subject to be as contentious as its turned out to be.

    i can only talk about my own experiences and those of my own kids. My kids have certainly not been given the insight into the reasons for, the actual events and the reprocussions of the two WW's This is i think is tragic. Its very simple in my own mind - If we dont make our own kids aware of the results of WAR then how the hell can we expect their generations to avoid walking into the same mire!?

    If my kids are not receiving the education on this subject then im sure there are many others that dont either.

    People here have said how they were taught "War stuff" in either a very bad or very sketchy manner. perhaps this is why we have political leader, after political leader, still sending young men and women into futile wars. perhaps, if they themselves were ever taught the consequences and REALLY understood what it was all about these things would never happen. maybe im being naive?!

    We all know in this country what a lottery, education and NHS can be but surely a structured and even compulsary WW education wont be a bad thing, if only to teach the MISTAKES made by previous and current generations.

    War after war after war, we still seem unable to realise that its futile and rarely if ever achieves all of its goals. Surely the more education on this subject must be a good thing!?

    I must say Paul you certainly are tenacious, but you haven't addressed the points that Alan or I raised over your plea for in-depth / compulsory WW2 instruction.

    Frankly I agree, it's a tad simplistic to suggest that we are constantly finding ourselves in conflicts around the world because our children are not taught properly about WWs, and thus unable to achieve influence over our leaders. The 2 world wars were in quick succession, so quick in fact that quite a few served in both... were these latter so unaware of the first war that they failed in their duty to avoid the second one? Or was it just the German kids that flunked in that test? You can be sure that many of the people in Government had better than average eduction, and odds are that quite a few had an interest in History too.

    Again, the easiest route for anyone who thinks their local school isn't doing a good enough job, would be ring up the Head and ask to speak to them about your concerns. You haven't said if you ever did. :unsure:
     
  10. pauldawn

    pauldawn Senior Member

    Hmm - im going to take your suggestion Diane, that im tenacious as a compliment, although im sure thats not how it was meant.

    im sure the leaders then had very good educations but you must agree that times were different. the populace didnt question their leaders as readily as they do now. King, country and God seem to be the most important thing then. Nowadays people question more readily - people arent so ready to rubber stamp wars faught in their names. Is this correct or wrong, well, thats open to question and interpretation. But my point is simple - without education we can not have an opinion. without education we can not question. without education we dont have the ability to argue or debate, without these skills we will follow like lambs. The inability to argue or question is why men through themselves over the top in ww1 in their millions! This is why an in depth understanding / education of the reasons for and the consequences of war are vital.

    You mention the german kids in your post Diane... Do i think they flunked the test is a question you ask. Well, i will suggest your comment is either insulting to those german kids, or to me. NO i do not think anybody "flunked the test"! However i do suggest that whatever education the german youngsters and the german nation had received prior to WW2, was diluted by the propoganda Hitler and his buddies managed to install through propoganda and bully boy tactics through the 20s and 30s. the routes of Germanys problems stem back to the mid 1800s.hitler filled a polical void but also kept his promises to the populace, in achieving these things he had them eating out of his pocket. So, anything that may have been taught was very quickly "untaught"!

    I have spoken to several school heads over the years and the overriding comments achieved at those conversations is "we must accommodate the majority, not the minority!"

    im pleased that many kids are getting the education deserved, im pleased its only mine that arent.

    i stand by one thing though - if the kids dont have a "proper" understanding of war then we will do it time and time again! As we already are! Education is paramount to have any chance of preventing these things again. Education prevents ingnorance!
     
  11. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Tenacious - I'd honestly take as a compliment from me.

    Being half-German I can crack a joke if i want to about them, cos the argument was ignorance of the past creates repetition. So who in 1939 was ignorant of the Great War and its cost, propaganda or not - all anyone had to do was look at the empty chairs in the home where someone should've been sitting.

    I'm not sure if there was that much deference to leadership at the time. Only one example admittedly but wasn't Churchill famously heckled when he visited bomb damage?

    We had no vote over Iraq, yes some protested, but the majority of us ended up falling for a sexed up dossier and some spin. And we do what now with this understanding of the mechanics of Government and the cost to families and the economy. We might end up with more shepherds through education, but I can't accept that education will stop the majority from being sheep. :(

    Education prevents ingnorance!

    No argument there!

    And with that I bow out. All the best Paul.
     
  12. Nicola_G

    Nicola_G Senior Member

    I loved history at school, did my O level in and and then also A level. We did study WW2, I think mostly at A level and I can remember reading AJP Taylor's book on the subject whose title slips me mind now xx number of years later. I've always found the subject of both wars very interesting and also poignant, but now concentrate on the areas that I'm interested in, rather than what the syllabus requires.
     
  13. wowtank

    wowtank Very Senior Member

    AJP Taylor's book?? not saying anything.
     
  14. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    War after war after war, we still seem unable to realise that its futile and rarely if ever achieves all of its goals. Surely the more education on this subject must be a good thing!?

    Paul,

    I think the most we can hope for is that the veterans who sacrificed so much are given some degree of respect and appreciation for what they did by following generations.
    The study of war has done very little in curbing man's appetite for it and I suspect it will always be part of the human condition. Hitler experienced the horrors of the trenches first hand and yet that did nothing to deter him from starting the next one.
     
  15. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Well said Canuck. The desire to go to war seems little diminished but the technology seems to advance by generations such that (one hopes) our 'great leaders' think military campaigns can be conducted without loss of life - on 'our' side anyway.
    This is all very well but any military man (and I am not one) will tell you ground can only be captured by men on the ground ie the PBI. That is where the casualties will always occur despite all the best technology.
     
  16. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    <SNIP>

    I'm not sure if there was that much deference to leadership at the time. Only one example admittedly but wasn't Churchill famously heckled when he visited bomb damage?

    We had no vote over Iraq, yes some protested, but the majority of us ended up falling for a sexed up dossier and some spin. And we do what now with this understanding of the mechanics of Government and the cost to families and the economy. We might end up with more shepherds through education, but I can't accept that education will stop the majority from being sheep. :(



    No argument there!

    And with that I bow out. All the best Paul.

    I know you have bowed out, Diane, but your remarks triggered a desire to make a point!

    What many are talking about as “history” is actually just our life to some of us. I agree most thinking people in the UK pre-WW2 were very well aware of the fact of WW1. They may have had it from formal education but much more likely, as in my case, from family members who had served, and frequent mention of those who had died in that service. The public, in the years leading up to WW2, was frankly not at all aware of any real threat from Germany in spite of efforts by Churchill and some others. In fact, Churchill was generally regarded as a scare-monger. So there was not a question of the general public being sheep led by the government shepherd unwillingly into war.....quite the opposite in fact.

    As you know, I had some exposure to German militarism in the years leading up to the war, including travelling with Hitler Youth through Germany in 1936 and 1937.. In spite of this I did not believe at that time that Hitler and the German military had any ambitions to conquer Europe and perhaps much of the world. I was probably too young anyway, at 16, to have such a political view. For me, and I believe many others in the UK, awareness of the dangers we faced did not become apparent until Chamberlain did the unthinkable in backing down to Hitler on their occupation of the Sudentenland area of Czechoslovakia.

    So when the German attack on Poland in 1939 resulted in the UK issuing an ultimatum and then declaring war there was an immediate recognition that this was now a life or death situation for the country. For me and many others who rushed to volunteer for service in the armed forces in the first few days of the war it was by no means thoughtless jingoism, or acting like sheep, it was a natural reaction of patriotism and self-preservation. If there is a shortage of that impulse these days I would say that it is not a fault of the education system but rather that the quality of political leadership has been so degraded since WW2 by political folly and chicanery, with wars for spurious reasons, sometimes for the inflated ego of our so-called leaders.

    My ten cents worth anyway!

    Nevil.
     
  17. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Nevil,
    Good to see you post again and I think you have a great view of both history, from your own experience, and the current situation.
    I particularly respect your view that as a young man you had little political understanding, but after that it was a case of serving 'King and Country' if I might paraphrase.
    Unfortunately these days in this country I feel there are few of service age that would share a similar sense of responsibility in similar circumstances, although there are obviously exceptions.

    Best regards Nevil,

    Mike
     
  18. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Nevil
    quite right the Uk didn't really wake up until 1938 - as by then it was very late in the day which accounted for so many losses in both manpower and territory until close to the end of 1942 when we started to win - but it was a close run thing - now we have had so many egos in parliament vying for the biggest that people have been soured by lies and the watering down of the British ethic by idiotic immigration that I can't see a reversal anytime soon- rather we just complain under our breath about Choudery and his leaflets in London - but do little to halt that nonsense- gutless is the word I am searching for ...
    Cheers
     
  19. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    History? More shine and embellishment than a Guardsman's capstar. After the great war the British had no wish to involve land forces in any future European war. The defence of the realm both intellectually and financially was to be in the hands of the Royal Navy with a small force of Air. The army was to revert to it's pre war status - 'colonial policeman' with a bush war capability. The strategists and tactician's were full of ideas that the bean counters were not interested in. The land forces of the day suffered from the three levels, the cavalry, the guns/support - and the lowly and 'unfashionable' infantry. The higher echelons talked of armour and infantry going into a modern day charge - much talk indeed, as the American would say - no doctrine, just vague ideas (anyone wishing to deny the American viewpoint will have to disagree with Montgomery - he introduced the doctrine theory to all of his commands). Orders were given (pre war) for infantry and armour to work together, this was left to lower formations to organize and it rarely happened, some strong willed commanders like Montgomery were getting armour reluctantly and with the proviso that they were not 'under command' to exercise together - the German and later the American commander had organic local fire, gun and arnour support under direct command, the British commander would have to liaise with support commanders (this changed under Montgomery) - a perfect nonsense! Montgomery also in 1938 saw the need for all arms to work on beach landing assaults. History, having spent much time in enforced study , I am not a fan of books, some have an agenda, some rely on regimental histories and war diaries, these cannot be used as proof without the ability to cross reference to other formation and higher formation reports, often the signal logs conflict with reports. If I make a cock up, I might just be tempted - for the sake of the unit put a shine on the event - Some see criticism as being disloyal, others see war history as the UK and all the bit part players. History as Churchill pointed out is kinder to those who write it.
     
  20. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Nevil,
    Good to see you post again and I think you have a great view of both history, from your own experience, and the current situation.
    I particularly respect your view that as a young man you had little political understanding, but after that it was a case of serving 'King and Country' if I might paraphrase.
    Unfortunately these days in this country I feel there are few of service age that would share a similar sense of responsibility in similar circumstances, although there are obviously exceptions.

    Best regards Nevil,

    Mike

    Greetings Mike!

    Looking back, I think my motives for volunteering were about 70% for national self-preservation, 10% for joining with a small group of dedicated motorcycle sports enthusiasts and maybe 20% for what you call “King and Country.” The Royal Family was not too popular in the years leading up to the war, the Great Depression having seared into people’s minds the disparity between the aristocracy and the hoi polloi. It was their actions and bearing during the war that restored a large measure of the Royal Family’s popularity.

    I am reminded also that in 1933 there was the infamous debate in the Oxford Union which resulted in the approval of a motion that the students would not participate in any war for King and Country. It caused widespread dismay, amongst older people especially who asked the age-old and inevitable question: “What is wrong with young people today?” A question that predates Aristotle and probably extends back to the Stone Age.

    Well, of course all that was forgotten when the country was really threatened in 1939. So I suspect the judgement that today’s young people are wanting in public spirit and patriotism may also be proven incorrect if and when the chips are down and the nation’s freedom and well-being are at stake.

    Frankly I don’t blame young people for being extremely skeptical about participating in recent wars....I share their skepticism and aversion. Almost all of them have been poorly concealed con jobs and few have involved the territorial integrity of the aggressor nation.......not even Afghanistan which merited an assault on Al-Quaeda but not an attempt to force a nation to change from 15th century feudalism to 21st century democracy almost overnight. It just will not work, as the British and Soviet Russians found in the past century, and killing thousands of them in the process is counterproductive.

    I honour the men and women who take part in these wars (including one young female relative of mine who served two terms in Iraq in the British Army) and especially those who lost their lives or were wounded when doing so. They are doing their job beyond the call of duty. However, I have little use for the self-promoting, egotistical, politicians who put them there.

    Nevil.
     
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