How ought war to be remembered in schools?

By Simon Barrow
November 11, 2014

'How ought war to be remembered in schools?' is the question David Aldridge asks in the journal Impact, published by the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. It is well worth reading alongside Ekklesia's report on 'Re-imagining Remembrance' (www.ekklesia.co.uk/research/reimagining_remembrance).

The summary is as follows:

"Each year a national day of commemoration of the war dead is celebrated on 11th November in the United Kingdom. Despite public controversy about the nature and purpose of remembrance, there has been no significant discussion of the role schools should play in this event. In this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, with the government planning to send groups from every secondary school in Britain to tour the battlefields of the western front over the next four years, the question of how war should be remembered in schools is more pressing than ever.

"In this bold and rigorous pamphlet, David Aldridge takes a hard look at the reasons usually advanced for involving children and young people in commemorating the war dead, and finds many of them wanting. He critically examines the high profile in schools of charities, like the Royal British Legion, with vested interests in certain kinds of commemoration. And he argues forcefully for a justification of remembrance in schools that requires a major rethink of established rituals and practices.

"This is a compelling treatment of a topic high on the agenda of teachers and education policy-makers and will be an invaluable resource for anyone involved in planning centenary commemorative events for children and young people."

Of course in 2014 Remembrance is effectively an all-year-round activity because of the centenary of the First World War. But the agenda for re-thinking how we remember war and the relationship between that in tandem with exploring alternatives to conflict, peacemaking and the role of religion and ideology in both exacerbating and attenuating or averting militarism continues. It is a theme Ekklesia intends to take into 2015.

In schools, issues of war and peace are continuous on curricula dealing with history, and beliefs. David Aldridge has made an important contribution to the debate which deserves wide consideration by those involved in education and beyond.

* Read and download the pamphlet 'How ought war to be remembered in schools?' abstract and full article
here

* More on remembrance from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/remembrance

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© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.