Nov. 12, 1999

Remembrance Day

 

Yes I know I'm late but it doesn't hurt to remember, again.

November 11 is celebrated as Veteran's Day in the US and as Remembrance Day in Canada. (The date is celebrated in other countries as well, including Australia, France, and Belgium but I don't want to do exhaustive research on that point. If I didn't mention your country and you want me to update this, please email me.) Specifically, November 11, 1918, was the day World War I ended, but remembrance extends to the veterans of all wars.

The US and Australia, (using examples I'm aware of) have more than one day a year set aside to honour the War Dead. Memorial Day in May arose after the Civil War, and April 25, ANZAC Day, (for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) marks the date of the first major action fought by these forces in World War I.

As I was born in 1951, I don't remember World War I or World War II. My father and favourite Uncle were in the Canadian Army for World War II but did not go overseas because of poor vision and other health problems. My father lost a cousin he was close to but of course I never met him.

 

Dad & Army Buddies

 

That's my Dad, standing on the far left.

 

My Uncle

 

And that's my Uncle. My mother never really got over seeing her brother in uniform with a rifle.. he was the gentlest kindest person anyone could ever meet!

 

I'm too young to remember much about the Korean War and Viet Nam was a horrifying TV war, happening to someone else's country. I don't know anyone who fought in Viet Nam, and none of my neighbours was killed there. At the time, though, I didn't think about how different it was to be in Canada.

Canada did fight in the Gulf War, and my neighbour's son was stationed on a ship in the Persian Gulf. She had a yellow ribbon around the tree in her yard, and her son did make it home ok.

Remembering, then, in my case and the case of today's children, is confined to what we've been taught about war. Which is, unfortunately, not nearly enough.

Even when I was in high school, people bemoaned the state of history education. We were required to take a history course for each of the four years at that time, and I hated every minute of it. I remember memorizing the British Kings and their dates of rule. I think we studied ancient Greece and Rome and of course Canadian history. I don't know why it is so difficult for history courses to be taught in a way that stimulates the imagination. It should be anything but boring.

In Quebec schools at the moment, history is only taught in grades 8 and 10. Grade 8 is "General History" covering everything from prehistory on up. I can imagine how thorough that is. Grade 10 is "History of Quebec and Canada", a course with a traditionally high failure rate. My sons both hated it.

According to plans for curricular reform here, history is to be taught in grades 7, 8, 9 and 10 in the near future. This can only be a step in the right direction. Of course science and math are crucial but so is growing up with a sense of perspective, a sense of what came before. The world is not a clean slate.

And of course I must drag out the relevant famous quotation by George Santayana:

"Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."


P.S. I promise to lighten up a bit for the next entry - another cow story!

The first visible snowfall fell today. Just a dusting, which melted off the concrete but stuck to the grass a bit. Nov. 12 is fairly late for the first hint of snow, so I guess I won't complain.. too loudly.


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