On June 6 — the 75th Anniversary of D-Day — we were reminded that in 1944, U.S. soldiers waded ashore to Omaha Beach seeking to free German-occupied France from Nazi control. Thousands of soldiers lost their lives. Their sacrifice, bravery and patriotism should not be forgotten.
Educators and educator preparation programs play a pivotal role in that. We have a responsibility to not only teach students about D-Day — what it was, what our soldiers fought for, and why — but also to teach teacher candidates how to teach D-Day.
The passage of time can remove us from historical anomalies and make harrowing events seem faraway and foreign. These moments, however, must remain vivid and meaningful for future generations. The “rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” are not just words to a song. They are a reminder that we live in “the land of the free” because of “the brave.” Our soldiers did not run from service or sacrifice. They were faithful in securing liberty both in the United States and abroad.
We, as educators, must relay that reality to students. We do so not simply to fulfill a lesson plan, but rather, to ensure our democracy. We must learn — and teach — our nation’s history and its impact on the world. We cannot take our democracy for granted. That is what our soldiers fought for on D-Day, and they did so with great loss of life. Those preparing the next generation of teachers must equip teacher candidates with a well-rounded curriculum — a thorough understanding of history and context, stories of substance and valor — that underscores timeless principles.
Good citizenship. The common good. An all-for-one mentality.
In times of conflict and unrest, one’s race, religion, gender, economic status, political leanings, and geographic upbringing — differentiators that so often divide us — are irrelevant. We are all Americans. Period.
There is, to be sure, room for all of us; there is not room for hate. Let us remember that. Let’s not re-learn lessons that war has already taught us. Let’s teach those lessons and instill those values in future generations. Only then will we deliver on the promise of our democracy.
Some D-Day heroes who are alive may not be here for the next anniversary. They, like all of us, will eventually slip through the hour glass of history. It is up to us to make sure that their sacrifice was not in vain. If those buried beneath the headstones in Normandy could speak, they would tell us to reject nationalism and authoritarian regimes at all costs.
That is what we must teach our students. We must teach them what it means to be an American and a citizen of the world — and in doing so, we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Renée A. Middleton
Dean, The Patton College of Education, Ohio University