WAR IN THE CLASSROOM
by Jim Moore
PART 1: VFW BOOKS
November promises to be a big month for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and an even bigger month for school kids. That�s when the VFW promotes its books as �reference tools� in America�s classrooms. To make our wars �come alive� for the kids, so to speak.
The VFW says their books pay tribute to the sacrifices made by Americans in uniform. And, they say, the books are designed as teaching tools—handy references—in educating young Americans about the commitment made in America�s wars. Teachers will use them as �instructional materials� in classrooms, From there, they will edge themselves into �historic� references.
Well, they will no doubt be that and, if the subject matter is any indication, much more.
In perusing the selection of VFW war books available for children of all ages, we find such mind-searing and mouth-watering titles as: Cold War Clashes, Battles of the Korean War, Combat Action-Cambodia to the Balkans, Blaze in the Boondocks, and Fighting on America�s Frontier in the Philippines. (Some of the wars may have been a bit too gory to put into books for kids.)
During the Civil War, General Sherman, in a somber and emphatic statement said, �War is hell.� Considering that Sherman had seen enough blood and guts to concede that war is about killing, I fail to see where discussing this kind of death and destruction will add much intellectual substance to a classroom full of children.
Frankly, I find three things wrong with the VFW proliferating this sort of war propaganda in student classrooms.
First, they may mean it to be �a tribute to the sacrifices� of our young people, but it�s much more than that. Call them what you will, these are war books. Period. They have no redeeming value other than to pander to the horrors of war and show the smile we put on the face of suffering. The VFW should stick to its mission of helping veterans with post-war problems (which it does very well), stay out of the schools, and leave �war education� to the encyclopedia and library.
Second, VFW war books, flat out or by implication, have only one message to deliver: fighting and death. Not valor, sacrifice, God and country, heroism, or patriotism——in spite of the gutsy pictures and kick-ass copy—-only how gloriously men, both ours and theirs, died for their country—- or because of it. I am absolutely against burning books. And though these book do not belong in the fire, they also do not belong in the schools.
Third, if VFW books were truly educational, they would give young people �all of the story.� They would present for discussion America�s wars as sometimes a drastic necessity, not as heroic or patriotic adventures. They would discuss options to war; the part that diplomacy plays as a war deterrent; the legitimate need for a military to defend our homeland, how adventurism and imperialism lead to war; how our founding fathers warned us about not meddling in foreign affairs lest it prompt a war; how wars can be avoided, not by timidity but by negotiating through strength; how, if war is inevitable, we do not glamorize, eulogize or commemorate it, but seek to find the cause of it, then declare war on cause.
It may surprise you to know that until recently I was a member of both the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. But I am also a WWII veteran who spent three years in the South Pacific theater, finally quartered in Japan as part of America�s occupation force. So I am not a stranger to war.
However, it is that long-range perspective that has convinced me that war is nearly always a triumph of madness over sanity. And bringing this madness into the classrooms of America via the VFW war books is, I am convinced, the last thing that young, developing minds need today.
Someone once said that the main business of the VFW is to put itself out of business. That�s something else that kids in a classroom have a right to hear.
“Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”
Jim Moore is a political writer and a regular columnist for EtherZone. His latest book, Marketing the Messiah, is a short, satirical look at how an adman sold Jesus� “story” to the public. $12.95 (S&H included) gets you a copy. Send check or M.O. to: Jim Moore, 1008 Landings Loop, Tallahassee, FL 32311.
Published in the September 19, 2005 issue of Ether Zone.
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