At this time of year, Canadians across the country participate in remembering. For many of us who do not have any personal experience with wars and battles, we count on historians and our teachers to give us the context; we count on our loved ones to tell us their personal stories of digging trenches, of hiding, of narrow escapes, and of standing up with their comrades in arms against oppression. Another source of information for us is in public narratives told by survivors in media and in print. Our students and the next generation of youth, like many of us, also depend more and more on what society collectively can do to ensure that active remembering continues to take place.
As I do some active remembering, an image from several years ago comes to my mind. The image consists of elementary school age children unloading from school buses, lining up in designated areas waiting for entrance to the museum. At one glance, I can see hundreds of these students in the gathering area, and then dozens of school buses parked neatly side by side in the parking lot. The location of this fieldtrip? The Dachau Museum near Munich in Germany. Dachau was the first of the Nazi concentration camps. After the war, at the insistence of ex-prisoners, various memorials began to be constructed there. Today, it is a museum open to the public and used by educators to teach the children about a part of history that the Germans are not particularly proud of. And yet, I respect the German educators for recognizing the importance of active remembering, of presenting history in an authentic way, of presenting facts without bias, and most importantly, of recognizing that the shaping of core values about war and peace in the next generation rests mostly on us, the educators. I had the privilege of learning in that museum with these German school children and educators on that very special trip. I am thankful that their active remembering includes teaching a history curriculum that is honest and transparent, and that the unit of instruction culminates in a visit to such a historic site.
Here in our city, we do not have historic sites of that magnitude to offer our children. However, every November in our school, the teachers and tutors talk about war, remembrance, and peace in our classrooms. We make special efforts to take books out of the library to illustrate, to read, and to discuss the horrors of war and the endeavours, sacrifices, and cost to keep peace both at home and globally. Our teachers present poetry, songs, plays, and literature to inspire young minds for peace. We invite guest speakers to share their personal stories of triumph, tragedy and sacrifices. The staff works very diligently with the students to put on a Remembrance Day ceremony. As a school community we pay homage to war veterans -- those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom, and those who are still in active duty far away. We stand together to send a message of gratitude by our poems, by our performances of songs, dance, recitation and art. It is always a touching moment for me as we observe the minute of silence. I am grateful that I live in a free country, and I appreciate all the giants in history and unsung heroes who stood for that freedom and fought for it so that it can be a reality for us today. We need to actively remember so that this reality will continue….