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"Military History: Required Curriculum?" Topic

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23 May 2020 5:20 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Military History: Requied Curriculum?" to "Military History: Required Curriculum?"

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian23 May 2020 5:13 p.m. PST

In the news today, it was reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted legislation that would add "war history" to Russia's required education.

Should all students be required to learn some military history before graduation?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2020 5:31 p.m. PST

Baby steps, Bill. First we teach them all to read and write. Then we teach them to evaluate what they read, and to express themselves coherently on paper. Then we can consider what history--or civics--is necessary for a good citizen. But since I will be long dead before US public schools take an interest in basic literacy, I can leave the later problems to another generation.

Drat. This is a poll question.
1. Enough history to understand national heritage and traditions, some of which will be military history.
2. In a democracy, enough specific military history to understand the consequences of going to war--including unpredictability--and of peacetime unpreparedness.

We don't need them to be generals, but when someone shouts "send in the Marines!" or complains about feeding and training a peacetime army, there should be some informed thought behind it.

Now, make THAT one line in a drop-down!

jekinder Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2020 5:40 p.m. PST

As somebody who took a military history class at U of I in 1975- Navy ROTC requirement- no. They only two people that got anything out of it were myself and the other ROTC student in the class. I learned much more from reading wargames magazines. I do second bringing back civics.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2020 7:50 p.m. PST

I mostly agree with Robert Piepenbrink on this one.

USAFpilot23 May 2020 8:07 p.m. PST

Agree with the above comments. Need to fix the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic first. Military history is currently studied by those with a personal or professional interest.

RudyNelson23 May 2020 9:07 p.m. PST

In the 1980s when I was a GTA at Auburn University, the military related courses, such as American Civil War, Napoleonic France, and World Wars were always full.

When I was in college in the early 1970s, Military History classes were popular among male students. Our classes were about half ROTC but the other half were regular students. The Military Management courses were also about half and half. I took all of the available military science courses and earned a major in it with military history being just one course.

So you have to be more specific about whether you are talking history or science. A lot of difference.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP24 May 2020 1:23 a.m. PST

It sounds strange to me that only national history seems to have been considered as important by those posters who gave details.

I'd think a broader history that looks at civilisations and their interactions, cultures and achievements would be a better basis. Specific areas of study could then come later, once basic ideas and context has been established.

Studying more recent history immediately is fraught with difficulties of ideological interpretation that any intelligent student can spot and it puts them off.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2020 3:53 a.m. PST

History yes – and given that history typically is brief periods of peace punctionating long periods of war, they will pick up a lot of military history

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP24 May 2020 4:03 a.m. PST

In the United States, it already is.

While the US has no national curriculum or testing standards, includes some military history in their grade and graduation requirements. This includes (but is not limited to) AWI, WNA (or ACW, if you must ;) ), WWI, WWII, the Korean police conflict, Vietnam as well as one or two ancient conflicts, one East Asian conflict, one colonial war in Africa, and some vague notion about a short dude on a big horse with an army that wore impressively clean white pants.

At the lower grade levels, the testing recognition of places and people. Middle grades, memorization of dates and events, and at the higher levels, some minimal interpretation of history.

As implied above, this is folded into the overall history requirements, as it should be. It's basically impossible to have a broad, substantive discussion about the human condition without discussing such conflicts.

The real questions are:

– What do we really mean by military or war history?
– What should they learn?
– How should they be instructed?

and the one that drives it all

– Why?

Ferd4523124 May 2020 6:17 a.m. PST

Wrote, introduced and taught US military history at the high school level from the fall of 1976 to the summer of 2006. As a construct I used the principles of war and would require two oral presentations on a battle or campaign using the principles as the tools of analysis. I tried to impress upon them the influence of technology on the way war is/was conducted Also required them two read two outside books and then review them for content and usefulness. I wrote all the handouts as there was no text.
It was a semester course so it was very superficial.
It did give the,mostly, boys more of an understanding then they were getting in their regular US history class. I usually taught between 4-5 classes every year. H

Legion 424 May 2020 7:58 a.m. PST

Well most Americans especially some high school or even college level have little to no idea about history period. Was watching a news show last night. The reporter went to a beach full of kids. He asked some very simple questions about US History. And very, very, very, few had any idea.

steve dungworth24 May 2020 8:39 a.m. PST

my daughters did history at school (in the uk) and elements of military history and general history were covered. some was british history some was European and some (not much) covered African and indian history. my wife was Bulgarian and we taught the girls the cultural history and on our visits stressed local history especially the battle against the Turkish (yoke).
I taught in a uk university and historical knowledge in general was patchy even quite recent history – this meant many of my jokes fell on stoney ground although that may be a function of my warped sense of humour.

Wolfhag24 May 2020 9:25 a.m. PST

Yes, just as long as they are taught MY version instead of Howard Zinn's version. How do you keep the revisionists and political indoctrination out?


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP24 May 2020 11:23 a.m. PST

Teach them the skills to discriminate for themselves and you can stop worrying – or possibly you can start worrying.

Depends on which 'revision' of history you dislike.

Having experienced a child who came home from school with instructions to watch Braveheart to learn about the Scottish war of Independence, I'm not that sure that political indoctrination is all you have to worry about.

khanscom24 May 2020 5:03 p.m. PST

I don't have a clue how history is being taught nowadays, but more than 50 years ago State History was a required course in junior HS; HS required one year of U.S. History and an additional year of World History. B.A. requirements in college required a year of European History and (at the recommendation of a wargaming friend) did an optional year of Military History with Clark G. Reynolds. For a non- specialist that would seem to cover the subject well enough.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP25 May 2020 3:22 a.m. PST

In the US, the states require state history to be taught. How much and what is highly variable.

On a related note, not quite 10 years ago, DOM was required to take a Texas government class for her undergraduate degrees. She had tested (via AP) out of the minimum government studies requirement, but didn't go to secondary school in Texas.

Yesthatphil26 May 2020 3:26 a.m. PST

History as part of balanced mix of 'arts' subjects is esential. And underrated.

Military History – or history as punctuated and influenced by warfare, at least – is an essential part of that.

There is a wishy-washy tendency to edit military history out of general history in favour of more socially constructive themes like science and medecine. Which is interesting because many of the pivotal developments in those fields are driven by the requirements or consequences of the battlefield*.

My impression is that there is probably more military history than ever (optionally) in the English curriculum. That said, some teachers are reluctant to teach it for fear of brutalising their pupils, few history teachers are well grounded in the subject from their own school or university days (and that's another barrier to them teaching those options), and there is a tendency to go for the political and economic themes within the topics (rather than look at the warfare).

My own view (a): knowledge is power. Hawk or Pacificst, study the history. Know your stuff.

My own view (b): history boiled down to just politics, economics and social care is boring. I know (I've studied history all my life) … Bring back a solid core of history and keep the great campaigns and commanders in that core. That way the subject remains interesting and imaginative, and all your themes of science, medicine, exploration, religion etc. open up for the pupils (as, in reality, war is that heart of human development).

Look at the sales of non-fiction. History sells. Military History right up there.

*I'm (these days, at least) a battlefield historian and I live with a history teacher. We regularly explore the military history that is the key (and sometimes unexplained) background to the science and public health topics she has to design lessons around.

Wolfhag26 May 2020 1:56 p.m. PST

He is what California has approved:

Don't laugh, this may already be implemented in your state. Evidently, only one group can be presented negatively (guess which one) and the rest must be presented positively. Phobias run deep in this state and people get offended soooo easily. I've been to some of these hearings and meetings, it's like being caught in a blizzard of snowflakes.


USAFpilot26 May 2020 8:25 p.m. PST

Was watching a news show last night. The reporter went to a beach full of kids. He asked some very simple questions about US History. And very, very, very, few had any idea.

Yep, I've seen those type of videos. It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic. It reminds of something the comedian George Carlin once said: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

Blutarski27 May 2020 10:04 a.m. PST

Anyone interested in understanding the plight of American education need only examine the administrative bureaucracy that currently controls it.

The fact that Howard Zinn's "Peoples' History of the United States" is currently one of the most widely used scholastic texts in America is (IMO) not an accident. It makes a difference who sits on your local school committee.


Legion 427 May 2020 11:42 a.m. PST

USAFpilot +1

thumbs up

von Schwartz30 May 2020 5:14 p.m. PST

USAFpilot +2

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP07 Jun 2020 8:56 a.m. PST

In the current climate, when no one is modeling the use of history as instruction, as guideposts for where we came from, where we are and where we could go, then history become irrelevant.

The things that are said and decisions made from SCOTUS on gun control and militias to the Federal administration, POTUS and the Constitution, our leaders and the public has no memory, even to a year or two ago. History is ignored and gaslighted.

For instance, we are told by the President of the United States that General Mattis was fired and that Trump coined the nickname "Mad Dog."

Military history is just one of the casualties.

Bill Gray has a favorite quote that applies here:

"The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." Thucydides

The one thing that talented military men do is study the history of warfare.

I taught U.S. History and Government back in the 1980s. I did my best to instill its importance in daily life. I am appalled by the completely ignorant things now said by our leaders, government and the media about history, the Constitution and past government controversies.

We all have to do better.

Legion 407 Jun 2020 3:02 p.m. PST

After watching news media or media in general, for the past week or so. Looks like a whole lot of people in the USA and even the world need to … all need to study history.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP07 Jun 2020 6:16 p.m. PST


Legion 408 Jun 2020 7:51 p.m. PST

I guess it would have been quicker to just say I agree with you … evil grin

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP09 Jun 2020 8:08 a.m. PST

Easier, but I wouldn't have gotten the chance to write "Ahem." wink

Legion 409 Jun 2020 8:37 a.m. PST


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