Our observance of Remembrance Day is a concrete example of this function.
Thanks to our public schools, Canadians have been taught to “observe” Remembrance Day rather than “celebrate” it. Our observance is solemn and respectful. Military contribution is respectfully remembered, but is welded to anti –war sentiment.
We all learned in 13 Remembrance Day assemblies, to not cheerlead or romanticize war; to not use Remembrance Day as a recruitment vehicle; to not encourage our young people to seek the opportunity to die for their country.
We appreciate but bemoan that a generation of young Canadians were forced to make that horrific decision.
This solemnity is a tribute to our public schools, the architects of Canadian Remembrance Day observance.
Remembrance Day assembly planning committees struggle each year to balance honouring military contribution while denouncing the horrors of war.
Sometimes, (often in high schools) the anti-war sentiment wins out and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Imagine” dominates the ceremony.
Sometimes, vignettes of life in the trenches and of suffering families of those who didn’t return are emphasized in sometimes maudlin readings and mini plays.
But in toto , Canadians leave public schools with a well-rounded , personal relationship with Remembrance Day, one which informs their respectful observance(s) each Nov. 11th.
But how will Canadians observe Remembrance Day in the future?
Will it remain a solemn observance or will it morph into a celebration of military service in general?
Now that there are fewer and fewer survivors of WW II to attend, address, and support school Remembrance Day and cenotaph ceremonies, will we just begin to substitute “Afhganistan” and “various, U.S led police actions ” for Vimy Ridge, Ypres, Juno Beach and Caen ?
Will we, in our zeal to “remember”, begin to glorify and romanticize the idea of dying for one’s country in un- justifiable wars or will we continue to focus our “Remembrance” on the tragic circumstances that morally required Canadians to fight against world-wide fascism?
Will we now slip into rhapsodizing about military service, genuflecting to the troops who “fight for our freedom”; marching them at football games after a Snow Birds “fly past”?
Now that face to face, uniform wearing, declared war is a thing of the past, are Canadian Remembrance Days now similarly passe?
I hope we Canadians continue to differentiate between the awful, “one off” imperative faced by young Canadians in the World Wars, and the military as a career choice made by young people today.
As it has been for decades, it will fall to our public schools to form how Canadians observe future Remembrance Days.
We owe our solemn respect to those Canadians who were forced to fight in the two awful World Wars.
We owe our thanks to our public schools for so deftly sculpting the respectful Canadian observance of Remembrance Day.