Erik Richardson

Teacher, Richardson Ideaworks, Inc.

This conversation is closed.

How do we improve the military education of our children?

Given what seems to be a very liberal bias in current U.S. education, how can we better prepare our students to vote about and, if they choose, to participate in military actions?

Closing Statement from Erik Richardson

I'm amazed, not for the first time (or probably the last), that arguing for being able to think through an issue from different perspectives and that we examine the pros AND CONS of certain things can still end up labeled as skewed and driving an agenda.

I guess the question has been answered in a way, because before we can improve education about a particular topic--like the role/use of military forces--there is still work to be done on forming a clear picture of the difference between educating reflective, informed thinkers and driving one side of an agenda.

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    May 8 2011: 1) I am not entirely sure what to respond, re: your presupposition about a 'very liberal bias' in education, never mind that I'm not sure what you would regard as 'liberal' ideas in education.

    As for Military actions, I am not sure how exactly you 'prepare' anyone to 'vote' (this to me implies instilling a pre-ordained position on the issues) As well, in terms of participating in those actions, my personal experience is that you follow orders, within the rules and the Geneva Conventions and follow the chain of command. Any preparation that you give your children is bound to be superceded by the training they receive as members of the Armed Forces.
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      May 9 2011: What I mean by preparing them to vote is to give them the ability to think through an issue by reflecting on it with a meaningful understanding of different points of view. If students don't have an understanding of the pros and cons, for instance, of participating in a peacekeeping coalition through the U.N. which may or may not be in the U.S.'s specific interests, how are they capable of evaluating Obama's presidency come re-election time?

      What I mean by liberal bias in education has to do with the preservation and promotion of the theory coming out of the Enlightenment that we can somehow embrace diversity from some fictional standpoint of rational neutrality, and move forward without ever having to decide there are right and wrong positions on important moral and political issues that preclude establishing 'hand-holding, singing-songs-together harmony' at anything more than a superficial level.
  • May 28 2011: To better prepare them to vote, we should teach them what the country was founded upon and about the people who founded it, and explain why those ideas, though they seem old, are still valid. We need to encourage them to understand that America is based upon the idea of the citizens controlling the government and controlling the military and never the other way around. We need them to realize that the idea of ceding control to people who are not representative of the population is the greatest desecration of the American ideals possible. We need to teach them that 200+ years ago, a group of people refused to believe the 'we need strong leaders, people aren't competent enough to decide their own government' and those people, after trying reasonable appeals for decades, rose up and murdered their government.

    Notice that the British empire stretched across the globe. Their military might crushed nations everywhere. The things which led to that are the REASON the American people (British subjects at the time, remember, they were not foreigners fighting off an invader. They were a citizenry fighting their own military and anyone willing to stand with them.) rose up. Those things made Britain powerful, and it resulted in their being out-progressed by the United States. It wasn't until they gave up the idea of seeing themselves as the rightful rulers of the world that they were able to develop. The same is true of the US.

    Freedom is like sand in that the harder you try to hold it, the more laws you pass, the faster it falls away. This is a fundamental fact of human nature - the more rules, the more restrictions, the more laws there are, the worse things are. The military is a functional, useful group, like sewer workers. What they do is necessary (when it is actually done in defense). But they do not intend, and do not accomplish, producing "better citizens."
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    May 8 2011: Here's one way to prepare our children. 'So you want to join the Military? Right here's what you need to know. There is a great chance that you will either kill someone or die yourself. If not you or your colleagues may be severely injured or traumatized physically or emotionally. The chances of fighting for something justifiable is slim and the conflict you are sent to will be endless. On a positive note, serving your country is honourable and brave."

    I would never tell my children not to serve but should they want to I would make it clear that when you die or are injured in battle it is not like the movies. Your body is wracked with pain unimaginable to those of us who have never experienced it, you will never get to see your friends family or loved ones again and your short and productive life will be cut short. Yes sometimes it is a necessary thing to do. Just in case you have any more questions I would be happy to explain the grim details of two of my colleagues who lost their lives in Northern Ireland, let me say there was nothing anyone could have done to prepare me for that!

    That is how I would prepare our young for Military service.
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      May 9 2011: Well enough, and I agree that as they reach appropriate age levels, we should present a realistic picture. Let's also, however, show them the brutal, bloody end of citizens and races that have been decimated by not preparing adequately for war, and how well things turned out for those people's mothers, fathers, infant children. Let's show them realistic footage of how things were going before outside military intervention stepped in. The goal would be not just to tilt them in one direction or the other. The goal would be to prepare them to make meaningful, viable decisions on their own at some point. But, yes, that would and should include understanding and being able to recognize the way war is often misused by the political leadership, as well as a sense of perspective on the way military organizations can develop an internal drive which can sometimes override objectivity and become self-perpetuating and self-justifying.
      • May 28 2011: >Let's also, however, show them the brutal, bloody end of citizens and races that have been decimated by not preparing adequately for war, and how well things turned out for those people's mothers, fathers, infant children.

        Should we allow them to learn that in every single case, the people doing the 'decimating' (BTW, that word doesn't mean what you think it does, look it up) was a group led by strong nationalism, who believed that they would provide a more prosperous and secure government than the citizens could provide for themselves? What do we say when they learn that almost all of those doing the killing of the families were members of a military or paramilitary group staffed by people who underwent the same type of training that all soldiers everywhere for centuries have gone through?

        I think it is important to each everyone what the experience of those people who participated in the great tragedies of history were on BOTH sides. They need to understand that what they see in movies, about war and about oppression is fiction and that in real life, the oppressors always have a pure motive that they claim. They need to learn to judge by whether their government is controlled by their citizens or the other way around, and not what their life 'feels like' to see oppression.

        I think we definitely do need to give kids a realistic view of the military, and explain that its proper use is exclusively as defense against actual physical aggression. It is important to teach them that participating in a war is a true sacrifice, and they need to not only be willing to give their life for their country, but that they are responsible for every action they take, regardless of training and regardless of orders. They need to understand that part of the oath they take is to never follow an illegal order, and that when the dust settles, "I was just following orders" is the refuge of morally bankrupt cowards - the cowards responsible for most tragedies in history.
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          May 30 2011: decimate: to kill a large part of; to inflict heavy damage upon. Originally comes from the killing of every tenth person. Yeah, that's pretty much what I thought it meant, so I don't understand that point.

          Your second point doesn't quite follow because in a variety of historical cases the motivation was not to provide a wealthier or better government for the victim culture at all; rather, the motivation was to provide wealth for the perpetrators.

          I like your point about the way war is misrepresented in film, and that is a dangerous fiction indeed.