Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Just War Theory for Teenagers #2 Film Studies

In a previous post I introduced my lesson plans for my fifth year class on Just War theory and I thought it was about time I gave you a progress report. It took a little more time than I envisaged getting through the Principles of Just War that I listed in the previous post with the class-they just don't have a very high reading ability or attention span for anything that they don't understand so I reverted to the more simple Rules of War that are located on page six of the booklet. I printed out the text and we (eventually) read through them all. I had also collected a mish-mash of newspaper articles from the previous week to show them examples of the various rules in action (either being followed or disobeyed). If you have a data projector in class (lucky, lucky you) it's a good idea to use Google news and you can project them for all to read. If any of you have access to this weekend's Sunday Times Magazine, this has fantastic photographs of situations of conflict.

We also spent some time discussing civil war. Dundalk where I teach is a border town and my students would in general have more of an idea of civil unrest than the average Irish student. We talked about what "peace" meant and how it was a fragile term-how can you have a peace process and still have conflict? What does conflict mean to them? How has the "situation" (oh I've been well-trained in my PC terms and I can say that in a lovely Nordie accent too) in the North affected them? I did get a lot of "bovvered?" answers but at least I got them thinking about the fact that they might be oblivious and apathetic to the longest running civil conflict in the world right on their door steps.

I then looked at different approaches to war-more on Just War here and focused on the example of pacifism. One student was very emphatic that "all war is stupid and never works" and reckoned he was a pacifist. After some careful probing about his attitude towards Hitler, Saddam Hussein and various other clichés designed to get the blood of a teenager who likes Call of Duty boiling. And as it so happens, with an attitude like "kill the feckers" he might not be a pacifist! We worked on material from their textbooks (oh who writes these things, and have they never come across my fifth years!) and reached the dizzying heights of writing answers to questions in a copybook-this is achievement indeed for 5P and I made sure to boast in the staffroom.

As a reward for all the hard work we looked at two films to get a comparison and to look at the way the idea of war has changed through the years. We firstly looked at “Everyman’s War” (1999) which is the true story of Don Smith's heroic experience at the Battle of the Bulge while with the 94th Infantry.

As the seasoned infantry and tank units of the German 11th Panzer "Ghost" division move silently into position on the snow covered hills around Nennig Germany ,a battle weary GI and his unit stand ready to defend the small town, a key position in the Allied advance to win the war. Outgunned and outnumbered, S/ Sgt Don Smith struggles to find hope and courage against overwhelming odds in one of the decisive confrontations in the "Battle of the Bulge" during WWII. His squad of GI's of the 94th Infantry Division lay dug in on the ridge-line outside of town. No one in high command believed that German forces would attack in the sub zero temperatures and near blizzard conditions. As the pre-dawn attack comes, with communications down Sgt. Smith is left with no choice but to make his way through enemy fire, unarmed and wounded, into town and warn of the coming attack. Based on actual accounts.
They "kinda" like this and had a few questions-mostly about why people bothered fighting wars and why would people see being a soldier as a job or career? I gave out a handout with questions to fill in as we went along which I'll post soon once I get my feedback on them.

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