to stand on guard for thee

My dad’s an interesting guy, despite what I may say about him from time-to-time 😉 His education and passion is military history (he has several thousand books on the subject), and he’s been active with one group or another for as long as I’ve known him. He’s not a warmonger, he’s an educator, and his focus has always been on helping people understand and remember the good and the bad.

He’s always teaching folks about the past and present, and has an amazing ability to put very complex issues in fairly simple terms. He has been heavily involved with projects such as the Canadian Battlefields Foundation (aka the Canadian Battle of Normandy Foundation, assisting veterans in getting help from a government that appears to enjoy making life difficult for those it calls “heroes”, and making military history more accessible through interpretation and information. He currently participates (along with a huge group of other volunteers) in several historical recreations throughout Ontario all summer long.

I was popping through his photographs, and found out about an individual who has gone to great pains to educate his kids (he’s a teacher) about Canada’s military history, the effect it has had on our country, and ourselves. It culminated with a display and interpretive session on the school grounds, and the students participated throughout. Over the years it grew, and other schools started sending their kids (1,500 of them!) along, too. Great idea.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer being held. Dad reports that it’s because the new superintendant felt the material was inappropriate. That’s BS. How do we expect people to have an informed opinion of something if we hide it from them? It’s too bad, because there’s a lot good and bad to be learned from what’s already happened. I understand protecting your kids, but let’s give a little credit – they’re somewhat more than four when they enter high school.

In any event, it is no more, and it’s really too bad. With everything going on in the world these days, I’d want my kids to understand that everything has a price, and I think it’s pretty fair to say that wars and/or military actions are excellent object lessons. With the kind of response Mr. Michaud has received from students and the community alike, you’d think a publicly-funded education system would be more supportive. Instead, it decides it must act as a guardian for those who are old enough to understand and form their own opinions.

Education, indeed.

For 16 years, Eugene Michaud, an Ottawa secondary school history teacher, had planned and run, with a great many volunteer participants, a “time line” event designed to showcase Canada’s military history for students of his school board.

From small beginnings, it became a major event to which several schools sent teachers and their students to learn from well-qualified presenters at more than 30 teaching stations on the grounds of Gene’s school. By 2004, it had attracted the support of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Capital Commission and museums more than 300 km away. Gene was awarded one of the very first Minister of Veterans’ Affairs Commendations.

But in the same year, a new school superintendent took the position that, despite all this, students should NOT be exposed to any event or exhibit dealing with Canada’s military history – and that was the end of “To Stand on Guard for Thee”. Ten years ago, Dr. Jack Granatstein, in his celebrated book “Who Killed Canadian History?” levelled an accusing finger at the education system. Jack was right.

Here are images from the final “To Stand on Guard for Thee” in June 2004.

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