Saturday the 7th of December will mark the seventy-second anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The commemoration of that “date which will live in infamy” brings up memories of more than Pearl Harbor but of the entire American effort in World War II: of the phenomenal production of planes and tanks and munitions by American industry; of millions of young men enlisting (with thousands lying about their age to get into the service); of the men who led the war, then and now seeming larger than life—Churchill and F.D.R., Eisenhower and MacArthur, Monty and Patton; and of the battles themselves in which uncommon valor was a common virtue: Midway, D-Day, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima, to name only a few. Most of us today do not know those events directly but have encountered them in history books. And when we think of World War II, the people who come to mind first are our grandparents: the men and women of the Greatest Generation who are our surest link to the past.
One of the most vital questions for us—grandchildren of the Greatest Generation—is how we will preserve their memory. Ours is the much easier but still important task of making sure that subsequent generations understand the heroism and sacrifice needed to keep America—and indeed the world—safe, prosperous, and free during the grave crisis that was the Second World War. Presumably these lessons not only honor our forebears, who passed on a free and great nation to us, but they also set the example of how we must meet the challenges and crises of our own time. A glance at one of the nation’s leading high-school literature textbooks—Prentice Hall’s The American Experience, which has been aligned to the Common Core—will tell us how we are doing on that front.
The opening page of the slim chapter devoted to World War II called “War Shock” features a photograph of a woman inspecting a large stockpile of thousand-pound bomb castings. The notes in the margins of the Teacher’s Edition set the tone:
In this section, nonfiction prose and a single stark poem etch into a reader’s mind the dehumanizing horror of world war. . . .
The editors of the textbook script the question teachers are supposed to ask students in light of the photograph as well as provide the answer:
Ask: What dominant impression do you take away from this photograph?
Possible response: Students may say that the piled rows of giant munitions give a strong impression of America’s power of mass production and the bombs’ potential for mass destruction.
Translation: Americans made lots of big bombs that killed lots of people.
The principal selection of the chapter is taken from John Hersey’s Hiroshima. It is a description of ordinary men and women in Hiroshima living out their lives the day the bomb was dropped. A couple of lines reveal the spirit of the document:
The Reverend Mr. Tanimoto got up at five o’clock that morning. He was alone in the parsonage, because for some time his wife had been commuting with their year-old baby to spend nights with a friend in Ushida, a suburb to the north.
Further prompts from the margins of the Teacher’s Edition indicate how the selection is to be read and taught:
World War II has been called a popular war in which the issues that spurred the conflict were clearly defined. . . . Nevertheless, technological advances . . . [and the media] brought home the horrors of war in a new way. Although a serious antiwar movement in the United States did not become a reality until the 1960s, these works by Hersey and by Jarrell take their place in the ranks of early antiwar literature.
Have students think about and record in writing their personal feelings about war. Encourage students to list images of war that they recall vividly. [Conveniently, there is a photograph of the devastation in Hiroshima next to this prompt].
Tell students they will revisit their feelings about war after they have read these selections.
The entire section is littered with questions and prompts in this vein and plenty of photos that show the destruction of Hiroshima. In case the students would be inclined to take the American side in this conflict, the editors see to it that teachers will remind the students repeatedly that there are two sides in every war:
Think Aloud: Model the Skill
Say to students:
When I was reading the history textbook, I noticed that the writer included profiles of three war heroes, all of whom fought for the Allies. The writer did not include similar profiles for fighters on the other side. I realize that this choice reflects a political assumption: that readers want to read about only their side’s heroes.
. . . Mr. Tanimoto is on the side of “the enemy.” Explain that to vilify is to make malicious statements about someone. During wartime, it is common to vilify people on the other side, or “the enemy.”
After a dozen pages of Hersey’s Hiroshima (the same number given to Benjamin Franklin in volume one of The American Experience), students encounter the anti-war, anti-heroic poem by Randall Jarell, “The Death of the Ball Turrett Gunner.” The last line in this short poem sums up the sentiment: “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.” The textbook editors zero in for the kill:
Take a position: Jarrell based his poem on observations of World War II, a war that has been called “the good war.” Is there such a thing as a “good war”? Explain.
Possible response: [In the Teacher’s Edition] Students may concede that some wars, such as World War II, are more justified than others, but may still feel that “good” is not an appropriate adjective for any war.
More of the article at link: http://townhall.com/columnists/terrencemoore/2013/12/02/a-textbook-that-should-live-in-infamy-the-common-core-assaults-world-war-ii-n1756036?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook