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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

War — Current Events — AP

I was pleased to see this article in the Times: An AP Teacher who realized that we are a nation at war — and have been for a decade — and yet our lives, and the lives of our teenaged students, and the flow of tests and test-prep in our high schools, go on as if no one were fighting, and as if none of our students had to consider whether to enlist, or how to vote on the next conflict.

I was speaking about just this last week when I visited the 10th grade in Massachusetts. One of my hosts has a son in naval ROTC at a local college. He is soon to serve in a submarine. That will make him literally invisible to those of us on the surface. But in a sense his entire service is invisible. Because of the volunteer army we are in this strange place where war is half present and half absent — or all to present if your family is involved in it, and nearly invisible if it is not. That just is not healthy for a nation.

I’ve long said I believe in national service, and all the more now. What if every 18 year old had to do 2 years of something — in the military, in hospitals, in education, in helping to clean up the environment, in training animals to provide companionship for the elderly. War might still be as distant, but there would be a sense of a generation working together to serve, to help, to give something to their country. And then as 20 year olds, these more mature young people would enter college — with some work and life experience, and perhaps more of a sense of what they want to learn, how they want to use their extended education.

But national service or no — we do need to bring the present, the wars we are fighting right at this second, into our classrooms.