War and the Classroom Discussion

This semester in READ 6310 students were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By G. Garza

A current topic of research, academic discussion, and opinion in the classroom is war. The unfortunate reality of war is primordial, mythical, embedded in the psyche because of its existential role in human history. So why is it often avoided in classroom conversation? Can’t the topic be be a catalyst for discussions, positive social change in the world, promoting peace as the voice and means for problem-solving rather than force?

The origin of WAR can be traced to the word WORST, which means less skilled, more severe, more evil, to share a few examples that stood out to me. In “Searching for Peace: Exploring War with Young Children” (2009), Terry J. Burns suggests that war’s role in the classroom can be a transformational development in the learner, the learner that is bombarded with information about war on a daily basis in the form of news, images, and in an often overlooked sense, fighting. In its simplest form, war can take place on the playground or in the classroom, any where there is a conflict. In her article, Burns suggests through her observations that the topic of war can be used as a vehicle for raising awareness about the inherent wrong of war. Even though students may not have directly experienced war (in the militaristic sense) first-hand they can explore its effects in a vicarious sense. The emotion expressed through literature about war is powerful enough to affect the reader in a way that will cause them to “feel” the same pain, argues Burns, thus raising empathy for those impacted by war. These moments of empathy and emotion are also great jumping points to connect students’ lives with war and its effects.

With awareness of the impacts of war raised, and the emotions felt by survivors and readers linked, searching for causes of war can bring the youth to a heightened understanding of the unjustification of war. This probing of the causes of war, and “justification” of war by those in power lends itself to excellent possibilities for transforming the child’s view of war, and perspective regarding a conflict in which two parties are involved, one affected more severely than the other. This understanding that empathy is needed to ease tension supports the fostering of a generation devoted to peace and change as a solution to ending war. With that said, there is also the opposition against voices that choose to stand for the sake of humanity as a living breathing suffering vibrant community.

 Burns, T (2009). “Searching for Peace: Exploring Issues of War with Young Children”. National Council of Teachers of English. pp. 421 – 430.


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