When I went to school, I didn’t learn about World War II. It was scarcely referred to, and it was assumed that your parents would tell you about it.
I grew up on stories of World War II. My mother and father grew up during the depression, met and married during the war. On every December 7th, both of them would talk about that war. December 7th, was a date that would live into infamy, a date to be revered, and to remember those who died in the World Wars. It was Pearl Harbor Day.
My mother’s family had suffered heavy casualties in World War 1, so the narrative had a real import to it. My mother would take me to downtown St. Louis to the memorial across from the library and show me the names of uncles who would never come home, and to the cemetery by Jefferson Barracks Bridge to revere those long gone.
My father’s father served in World War 1, and while I never knew him, my grandmother had memories of both wars, and she didn’t hesitate to share them. My father served in World War 2.
The fight for freedom was their fight on a global basis. It was a fight that my family has fought for generations. While other families had large family reunions at picnic tables in parks with tons of people, my mom would tell me about the uncles she barely knew. It was the price of freedom, and that price does not simply die on the battlefield, but echos through eternity.
When my family did gather, it was a different sort of event. It was the tale of survivors and a recollections of those who would never return. It was often in Pope’s Cafeteria or somewhere on the Hill, with people who shared the same great great grandfather, who would on any other account be unknown to me. It was on the second Tuesday of every month, and a small table of older folks would gather for coffee and a small lunch and an afternoon visit. I was the only kid.
I didn’t learn about World War II, World War 1, the Spanish Flu, and a variety of other events from books, but from those who lived it and were there. When I ran across something that didn’t seem right, my parents and a grandmother were there to tell me the truth.
Such is not the case with the current generation.
Terrance Moore’s analysis of Common Core history texts is spot on, and shows the insidious nature of the common core. The Common Core standards have literacy standards across subjects. History has become “propaganda” under the guise of informational texts.
Prentice Hall’s The American Experience, reduces World War II to American inhumanity. Quoting from Terrance Moore
“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.
So, class, what are your “feelings” about war—and World War II in particular—now that you have read these two depressing selections in “early anti-war literature”?
Moore then takes Prentice Hall to task,
The Japanese never showed any sign of surrender until after Nagasaki, the dropping of the secondbomb. That meant that an invasion of Japan was the only alternative to the bomb. The Japanese were prepared to defend the mainland with 2.5 million troops and a civilian militia of millions more. American deaths would likely have been in the hundreds of thousands, and Japanese casualties, both military and civilian, could have been more than a million. Furthermore, a small detail that is left out of virtually every high-school textbook is worth considering. American planes dropped three-quarters of a million leaflets urging the people of Hiroshima to evacuate the city. That pamphlet is a document you will never see in a Common Core textbook.
Now those leaflets would be a good close reading, wouldn’t they? The leaflets were called the LeMay leaflets, and they were dropped on these cities. They gave reasons for bombing the cities, and list of radio stations to listen to for instructions. The English translation of the leaflets said,
“Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America’s humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately”.
Reading the LeMay leaflets puts a different spin on it, doesn’t it? There was no such leaflet drops before Pearl Harbor! Now, I am not in the habit of defending Democratic Presidents, but it isn’t like Truman wanted to drop the bomb. It was something that the had to do, or face the costly price of invading Japan’s mainland. He didn’t want to go down in history as the man who dropped the atomic bomb, but the man who ended the war and preserved freedom. The common core curriculum strips away the Truman legacy as well as the contributions of the Greatest Generation to preserving America.