Friday, April 23, 2004

World War II in the Curriculum.

World War II in the Curriculum. This essay explores ways that teachers can instruct students about the Second World War.

From the site:

In 1991, the fiftieth anniversary of the United States' entrance into World War II was observed. This is an opportune time to reevaluate and renew the teaching of this cataclysmic event. Most people have been affected by the political, economic, and social consequences of the war. But perhaps the most important reason to rededicate ourselves to teaching about World War II is that the experience is still near enough in time to provide retrospective interest for those who lived through it and to spark intellectual curiosity among those unborn at the time.

WHY EMPHASIZE WORLD WAR II IN U.S. AND WORLD HISTORY COURSES

There are many debates about what to teach in the social studies curriculum. However, there is a consensus on the need to emphasize World War II, as it is a major turning point in world history. World War II involved the largest armed forces, the longest battle lines, and the most destructive weapons of any war. It inflicted more suffering, more destruction, and more deaths.

Good history teaching emphasizes global turning points --- those events that have had the most far-reaching consequences, for the largest number of people, across the broadest areas of the Earth. Knowledge of World War II and other global turning points in history advances one's understanding of how our contemporary society developed. This knowledge, of course, is the necessary foundation for effective thought and action by our students about the important political events and public issues of their lives.

Many students, however, are failing to achieve knowledge about the causes, events, and consequences of World War II. In the 1986 National Assessment of History and Literature, most 17-year-old students said they had studied World War II, yet only 53 percent of them knew that Joseph Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union when the United States entered the war (Ravitch and Finn 1987, 55). In a set of questions on the World War II period, high school students were tested on (1) factors leading up to the United States' involvement in the war, (2) characteristics of the war, (3) the end of the war, and (4) the United Nations. In general, students performed dismally on this set of questions. For example, 45% did not know that Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps during World War II. Fewer than two students in five (39.5%) put D-Day in the correct four-year period.

10 comments:

Penny Weigand said...

For some great historical fiction read Penelope Dyan's "Sweet Lorraine" and "For Love of Pete". The later is a story based on real life Sgt. Peter Thomas Sirna who played the taps when they raised both flags on Iwo Jima. Both novels are fiction, but are historically accurate. These are great books to read side by side with a WWII curriculum! For more details go to www.bellissimapublishing.com

Stephen Chicoine said...

I believe you must emphasize the human experience for students. My latest book Our Hallowed Ground (see www.freedomhistory.com) profiles nearly a hundred veterans from the war. I wrote the book with students in mind. Powerful emotion engages students and imprints on their memory.

Colin said...

Since this is a school curriculum discussion, and I am the author of a book about a little known World War II operation, I just wanted to say how wonderful it would be for the veterans of the top secret Operation Jedburgh if you all taught about them. Operation Jedburgh was an operation where agents dropped into occupied France to work with the French Resistance. You can read more about it at my website: http://www.operationjedburgh.com

Ludjapie said...

I definitely think our students need to learn about WWII. I don't think that they realize how awful our POW's were treated and they were mostly just kids. I have a blog with postings from letters my father wrote (ludjapieslagniappe.blogspot.com). I am trying to get the local school to at least listen to his oral history of what happened to him. He was a Japanese POW. The book Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides is a great reference and also Last Man Out by Glen McDole. Thank you.

Marge@wwii4kids said...

I have 3 sons who are quite interested in World War II, one of whom is truly passionate about it. I'd forgotten most of what I learned about WWII in school until my 11-year-old became such an enthusiast. Recently we launched a website named World War II for Kids , and in the process of doing our research, we discovered two great books on the topic. One is called World War II for Kids by Richard Panchyk, and the other is Armchair Reader: World War II by Publications International, Ltd. The second one is a biggie, but it's broken into manageable topics and gives a different perspective on some that might otherwise seem boring to kids. I highly recommend both books!

Anonymous said...

I wonder why, apart from political correctness, you list the internment of Japanese-Americans so high in the list of things students don't know about the war. After Pearl Harbor, the Army for a time recommended abandoning the West Coast and withdrawing to the Rockies. That's how freaked out the country was. And you're aware of the sympathy for Japan among a huge portion of the Hawaiian population. Or perhaps you're not. Regretable as the internment was in hindsight, to raise it to the level of paramount concern is presentism of the worst kind.

Suvorovetz said...

Unfortunately, prevailing WWII curriculum is full of glaring omissions, especially with regard to how, when and where the whole thing broke out. Some very serious researchers challenging the status quo are being simply shunned by the established academia - and I'm not talking about Holocaust deniers here.

Patrick Evans said...

Hello:
I am a 3d artist/ illustrator and I am in the process of recreating Morrison field in West Palm Beach, Fl. from 1940-1957. The air base presently does not exist the international airport does. I am presently recreating the entire airbase in 3d as it was in the 40’s; as it was a World War II staging base. My goal is to have it on the web and located also at the historical society.
The purpose is for educational purposes to show what life was like on the “home front” on a military base. I am keeping an on-line journal of the project as it is being developed and researched. Visitors are welcome at the blog: http://imag3d.wordpress.com ( click on the “history” tag at the bottom of the page) Questions, suggestions, and criticisms are welcome.

Regards,

Chris said...

Someone played taps during the Iwo Jima flag raising? Are you referring to the one as the Island was taken, or maybe some sort of flag raising at a staff office?

world war 2 said...

Since students tend to failed history subject especially with regards to world war 1 and 2. It will be great to have this on the curriculum. Good history teaching emphasizes global turning points which I agree on. Thank you for sharing a very interesting post.