Although there are probably serious issues because it’s on a holiday, high school students at some point should be required to attend a Memorial Day ceremony.
At various points throughout the school year, small groups of high school seniors can be seen at Crookston School Board and Crookston City Council meetings. They’re in attendance as part of an assignment in their government class to attend a public meeting. They get a form signed by someone in an official capacity at the meeting to prove that they attended and then, presumably, have to write up some kind of report on what happened at the meeting they witnessed.
It’s a worthwhile lesson more often than not, although with most city council meetings lasting around 10 minutes one has to wonder if the students would be exposed to much more of the doings of their city government if they attended a meeting of the council’s Ways & Means Committee, where most of the insightful discussions and debates take place.
But here’s an idea. Although there are probably serious issues because it’s on a holiday, high school students at some point should be required to attend a Memorial Day ceremony. They could go to Oakdale Cemetery, the Sampson’s Addition Bridge Naval Service, or the Military Memorial Walkway…whichever one they want. And while they’re there, require them to stroll up to someone, man or woman, young or old, and ask that person why he or she is there. Tell them it’s part of a school assignment, and, hopefully, the person will be open to answering a couple of quick questions. The students can write down the answers and report back to their class what they learned about veterans, military service, and making the ultimate sacrifice for one’s country.
There were youth in Oakdale Cemetery on Monday during the Memorial Day service. Much of them were playing instruments in the community band, and there were cub scouts marching with the color guard, too. But, beyond that, it seemed as if many of the children in attendance were there because their parents didn’t want to leave them home alone and unattended.
When it comes to the “world” wars, this is more than a generational gap. This is defining moments in this nation’s history slipping into the past, with new generations of Americans knowing less and less about the people who fought for their freedom, and why they had to do so. There was probably a time when a similar fear was expressed about World War I becoming ancient history, and maybe the concern was greeted with an assurance that we’d never forget. Well, if you stopped 10 random people on the street and asked them what World War I was all about, how many would provide a reasonably educated answer?
Is history repeating itself with World War II? The very future of our nation was in doubt in those days. Thousands and thousands of young Americans went off to fight to see to it that the United States of America as they knew it lived on. But those veterans, the ones who are still around, are getting older and older and older. Are their stories aging and, then, dying with them?
Sure, there’s nothing like the opening half-hour of the outstanding film, “Saving Private Ryan” to illustrate just how terrifying, horrifying and just plain bloody and barbaric World War II could be. But these kids? They watch more than enough movies, documentaries and various other shows in class. Nothing beats talking to a real person, and asking that person what Memorial Day really means.