What would you die for?

On this anniversary of D-Day, I have become curious about educational materials pertaining to commemorating the Canadian contribution at Juno Beach on June 6th, 1944.

I also think that the fact of having roadtripped throughout Normandy to visit these sites in 2018 contributes to my inclination to pay attention to these anniversaries personally.

The Juno Beach Centre provides various resources to educators to assist in teaching new generations about the Second World War and the cost it took to defeat the evil of Nazism.

I am not sure whether these are the kinds of lesson plans actually being used in schools, but here are a couple of the activities that I consider to be interesting and worthwhile exercises.

Example #1:

Exploration: What would you die for?
Form a community circle in your classroom. This is a challenging question, you may need to ask some other
leading questions before you dive right into this particular question. Students will stand in a circle (shoulder to
shoulder). Ask the students, but be sure to share yourself.
a. What role would you want to play in a Canada at war in the Second World War? (i.e. soldier, nurse, factory
worker, leader).
b. What word do you associate most with war? (Students share their words).
c. What would you die for? (Students share their words, or choose to pass).

Example #2:

Create your own ideas about how to remember these particular men [Major John Archibald MacNaughton, Chief Joe Dreaver, and Squadron Sergeant Major (WO II) Alexander Howden Tough] who served in both wars.

Questions to consider:
• Do these men deserve special honours or memorials?
• What does Tough’s gravestone inscription “He did his duty, 1918 and
1942” tell you about society at the time? What would you have written
on his gravestone?
• If you were to design a memorial to these men, what would it look like?
Where would it go? Who would be your audience?
• A memorial can be anything from a statue, to a poem, to a park, to an
educational poster, or a day. What do you think would be most fitting?
• Would you design something for all three of them, or separate
memorials for each?

While these questions invite a broad plurality of responses, they still point to the objectivity of certain values.

The juxtaposition of different responses to the question, “What would you die for?” elicits judgments about what matters ultimately.

Contemplating memorials naturally leads to reflection on both the greatness and limits of human beings.

Asking questions about meaning and excellence seems to be a fitting way to honour those who gave their lives so that others could live in the freedom that makes possible seeking the truth of things.

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