Those who think public school’s most important function is to impart information need to look a little deeper into what schools teach kid, culture and country.
Remembrance Day assemblies teach Canadian children how to observe Remembrance Day.
They did it well for me – 48 times.
After each of these 48 occasions, I came away with a sense of pride, in the contribution of our Canadian soldiers, but also in the appropriate respect with which our young people have learned to treat this day.
Some assemblies were a bit melodramatic, some a bit schmaltzy, some a bit maudlin, and some (especially in High Schools) missed the Remembrance theme among anti-war songs and sentiment. (Ten minutes of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Imagine” by John Lennon can do that)
But in all 48 Remembrance Day assemblies I watched or organized, teachers and students showed such earnest respect for the occasion that it often reduced me to tears.
Kids knew to be solemn. In fact,they often tried to out solemn each other as kids will. They knew to listen and to reflect on the hardships faced by other Canadians and to appreciate the horror of war. Those school kids were and will continue to be the architects of Remembrance Day and how Canadians observe it.
48 assemblies, even with their occasional hiccups, were appropriate, because their imperfections showed they were organized by amateurs –heartrending, earnest, amateurs.
Sure there was always little Bobby, who couldn’t sit still during the minute silence and looked around trying to bring attention to himself, but he’d learn better – he’d have to, as he annually faced the unanimous respect with which his classmates observe the day.
The hundreds of children who set up the chairs, participated, organized, and recited “In Flanders Fields” in those 48 assemblies are all grown up now, many with children of their own.
And just as each of them learned about the culture of Remembrance Day in school assemblies, so will their children. They will continue to observe Remembrance Day in the Canadian tradition of quiet, solemn respect tempered by a healthy disdain for war.
Canadians do Remembrance Day right, and we learn how in assemblies in our public schools.
It’s a culturally crucial contribution.