Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why should *the kidz* care about Remembrance Day?

At 11:00am today I was teaching GCSE Ingerlish. The stoopid *media* part of the course that I'm not a *massive* fan of - partly, perhaps, because I only partly understand what the heck it's about. And I'm *supposed* to be *teaching* it? Hmmm... And throw in some extra hmmms for good measure.

The bell goes. We dutifully go silent for almost 2 minutes.

I avert my eyes from the students, cos really, I don't want to know what they're doing. I should keep my eagle eyes on them and their constant mobile phone abuse, but I don't want to spend a minute telling someone to shut up. It would spoil things. But it's okay anyway, they sit and they keep schtum. They are very good at obeying this ordinance. They know this 2 minutes silence thing is important. In the room next door I can hear a bunch of lads having a too-excited discussion about football. Again, I could go next door and tell them to shut it, but it'd be too late.


When the bell goes again, I ask the studes what they know about Remembrance Day; a couple do have a clue, but most of the rest seemed unconcerned and uninterested. I can understand that. It doesn't impact on their lives.

When I was a lad of 18 there was all that white poppy vs red poppy malarkey to worry about. As a wannabe socialist with a brother-in-law in the army it was something I did think about. But not for too long. White poppies seemed a bit pretentious.

"The White Poppy symbolises the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers. Our work, primarily educational, draws attention to many of our social values and habits which make continuing violence a likely outcome." [ from white poppies for peace]

The red poppy was supposed to be pro-war. Or as far as I could work out. That always seemed a bit odd. I thought it was mainly anti-death. Reading about it now, I can see that they had a point, and there was clearly a political edge to the Red Poppy when it was first introduced after the First World War with its echoes of Empire & the commemoration of British dead.

The white poppy was intended as a more inclusive (politically correct in 1926?) symbol of all war dead from all countries.

When troops returning from Afghanistan marched through the streets of Belfast at the beginning of this month there was a vivid reminder that not everyone is happy to celebrate valiant troops or Remembrance Day. It was either a mini-riot (the Irish News) or an entirely peaceful parade (the British Daily Telegraph).

Not being a resident of Northern Ireland, not being an Irish Republican, or a member of the military, but being a sort-of sensible grown up who has watched too many documentaries, visited cemeteries and read (and previously taught) a fair bit of World War One poetry, I think it's important to make sure that *the youth* know about that war and have some sort of understanding of the wars that are still going on. It's all very sad. Them not knowing is sad. The wars that happen anywhere in the world are sad. O, stop me at any stage for stating the blinkin obvious...

They do teach them about poppies and Remembrance at school, but the studes in my college class either didn't go to school or didn't concentrate very much while they were there.

Yeh, just the sort of kidz that end up as cannon fodder. Back in 1915, back in 1939, up-to right now - coz the Americans, the British, the Iraqi police - the people that join up, join up cos it's the best/only job they can get. Or that was my understanding of it, thinking back to the lads at my school that joined up. Yes, they liked the macho aspects of being a soldier, but they weren't top of the class either. It's hard to imagine any of them going on to write war poetry. But maybe war forces you to extremes. Creates a need to express yourself and get those emotions and thoughts out of your body.

Watching some of this BBC documentary on Walter Tull would have sparked their interest I'm sure. The first black officer in the British army and a professional footballer before he volunteered, it's a story that they would be sure to relate to. In fact, I might just let them watch it next week. See link for more info: - walter tull programme_on_bbc4

For the next week you can watch this summary on 'The One Show' on the BBC iPlayer: The_One_Show - fast forward to 16:00 minutes in.


  1. Given that the average person in this wondrous country seems to place vast importance on entirely meaningless things - take a look at the new hardback books out for Christmas for examples - how can they be expected to impart information to their children about anything of any real importance?

    >huge rant would go here if I wasn't hesitant to spoil a very intelligent post<

  2. They should remember. We all should remember, whether we care or not - whether we agree or not is a whole different argument, but we all should remember.

    I did hear that in Germany, they still try to maintain there was no holocaust.

    We should remember, even if it's only the mistakes.

  3. Isn't holocaust denial a criminal offence in Germany? I thought they tried to prosecute David Irvine (or whatever his name is)?

    Those of us old enough to have known people who fought in WWI and WWII need to remember for their sakes, and we also need try to make sure young people understand so that Governments can be kept in their place and the kids in doughboy's class and their peers do not end up as cannon fodder.

    I have dragged mine round assorted battlefields and cemeteries over the years. Were they grateful when they came to do WWI in history and realised they already knew so much about it? Yeah, right. "L wrote so movingly you could almost imagine she knew what it was like to be in the trenches" said one teacher. Ha, Ha and thrice Ha!

  4. Good for you alienne. I like your style.

    My father lost a leg in the second world war - he was cannon fodder. He missed the chance of a brilliant sporting career, and his path was changed forever by what happened.
    I always feel that as a result of his unhappiness which he never meant to display, we his family - were also casualties of this war.

    No one should ever forget, and shame on those who have little or no respect for our dead boys.