Students don’t care about America’s wars, writes Tyler Bonin, a Marine and combat veteran who now teaches history in North Carolina.
When he teaches about the rise and expansion of Islam, he tries to spark discussion about modern-day conflict in the Middle East. His students have few questions about terrorism, ISIS, Iraq or Afghanistan.
My high-school experience was shaped by 9/11, and I enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after the towers fell. . . . for my students, this was a war that had existed for almost their entire lives . . .
The media devotes little coverage to the war, and it’s easy to ignore, Bonin writes. “A person can support the troops without having to look at or contemplate the associated violence.”
Most of his students don’t expect to serve and don’t know anyone who served in the armed forces.
Students don’t know enough history to put our Middle East wars in context, he adds.
Experts argue history education—let alone nuanced history education that encourages critical thinking—is a low priority for America’s public schools, and if that’s the case this flaw only exacerbates the problem. As does the reality, according to some critics, that many modern-day textbooks teach a highly biased account of the “War on Terror.”
Young Americans “must learn that it is their civic responsibility to understand and assess violence being waged in their name,” Bonin concludes. It will shape their world.