Deeper Context for Understanding Warfare

Upper School students in the "Topics in the History of Warfare" class went to the Jacob Burns Film Center this week for a screening of "1917" with the goal of gaining better understanding of why WWI played out the way it did.

History teacher Jared Fishment commented, "For most people, it is hard to understand why the trenches became so prevalent, why attacks were so futile, and why generals would risk their troops in such a way. So, in terms of seeing this film, it was a great, visual way for students to see what it was like to fight in this conflict, and what it could to one’s psyche."  The entire third trimester of the course is devoted to WW1, so this was a great opportunity to dovetail an outside of school activity with an in class unit.

"The film was extremely well done," Mr. Fishman says. "The kids seemed to understand the gravity of what it might be like to serve during this conflict. Given that the main characters were in their late teens early 20s, I think it hit home. It also contextualized some of the military tactics used, and showed the great disconnect between privates and their superior officers." He notes that the film is somewhat comparable to "All Quiet on the Western Front" as a story about technology and how the old ways met the new. "For example," he says, "commanders had the capability to fly planes overhead, drag telephone wire across the battlefield, and create armored tanks to break the trenches, but were still in a practically medieval state using runners to pass information from one place to the next. Despite all these technological innovations, commanders still had no idea what was going on from one minute to the next, and imagine the kind of paralysis that might cause 17 and 18 year old kids that had never seen real combat before. This conundrum is exactly what the course was designed to understand."

The class looks forward to revisiting the film in the spring in the context of its WWI studies.