Monday, April 28, 2014

Teaching Future Generations About War

by Paul Herbert, Executive Director, First Division Museum at Cantigny Park

On April 26 and 27, 40 top-notch teachers from 22 states assembled at the First Division Museum at Cantigny for a conference on modern war, the ninth such conference jointly produced by the First Division Museum and the Foreign Policy Research Institute of Philadelphia. Experts from across the country covered drones, robots and digital communications; Desert Storm; peacekeeping and humanitarian relief; counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism; nuclear weapon and missile proliferation; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and the status of our all-volunteer force. Why should educators have a better understanding around these matters? Military affairs have affected our country profoundly for centuries and will continue to do so. Young people should know something about military history and affairs.

Public familiarity with things military is also crucial to a democracy that does not fear its soldiers, as so many societies have for millennia. Russia’s torment of Ukraine worries nearby fledgling democracies and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies. Syria smolders in brutal civil war. The futures of Iraq and Afghanistan teeter between hope and vicious autocracy. North Korea plays wildly with its rockets and nuclear ambitions, threatening regional allies, as does Iran. China unilaterally declares an air defense zone over international airspace. Al Qaeda spin-offs proclaim eternal hostility to the West and seek ways to strike again. Hostility to democratic ideals and a willingness, even eagerness, to use violence remain difficult facts of life. "We the People" must still make good choices in our common defense, and that means that military history and affairs must be part of our education.

Presentations from the earlier conferences can be found at: American Military History: A Resource Guide for Teachers and Students.