Saturday, June 06, 2009

LAUSD Quiz: What significant event happened on this date: June 5, 1945?

(Whoops!) Make that "June 6, 1044"- (sometimes you just expect that you are typing the words and numbers you meant to use, and the obvious is obviously missed. Ed. 6-8-09)

What's the answer I should hear uniformly? D-Day, the Allied forces invasion of France on the beaches of Normandy to fight back against the Germans in World War II that would ultimately end in the defeat of the Germans.

A simple map that shows the locations of the five beaches where the troops landed.

The question really is not one that might be tough for only LAUSD students, but probably for a lot of other high school students who really don't seem to be in touch with American history, generally. But the emphasis on the LAUSD side of the probe is due to the suspicion that many have not really been taught much about history, neither World nor American, to make questions like the one in the title unnecessarily more challenging than they should be.

I won't begin a long discussion or review of what is not taught and why, or whether the events in American history have become swept into the corner in favor of other things. The real point is that this is one anniversary of a date in history that was very significant to the course of WW II in Europe. This was a period in history where there were so many people, Americans and Allied factions, as well as the Axis powers and their citizenry, plus all the people who fell under the control of the Germans and Japanese as they invaded more lands. Each person possesses some personal, first-hand recollections, but as time moves on, more an more of them are dying and the rich history that could be added to from each person is lost unless passed on to others.

For the remaining people of the era, that day from 65 years ago does mean something important. There could be a better appreciation of what we have now from taking some time to inquire of surviving persons of their experiences, either as military participant or as civilians. WW II had an impact that could not be ignored by people alive at the time.

Living history is one of those thing that seems so easy to get, but becomes a lost opportunity by postponing or forgetting that many friends, neighbors and relatives and possibly co-workers can be the source for some real history. There were reports a few years ago that WW II veterans were dying at the rate of 1,000 per day. One item I found has stated this figure and relates a few real life experiences about the situation, too, to put it into better perspective. The people of that day were referred to as "The Greatest Generation."

These are the kinds of things that can be preserved by recording oral histories from so many people on so many experiences. In this way, you get a true appreciation for the times and the people and it may even influence how you live your own life. In this day of such a wealth of technology, we don't record as much as could be by audio or video means, but instead usually use the advances in technology for the most mundane things. The more communication advances, we see a decline lower the level of any meaningful thought.

Application of this technology to capturing recollections and opinions from are ever-aging populations of WW II people could be a positive force in terms of collecting historical artifacts. And this approach is practiced by some classes, among the teaching and learning techniques that are employed these days. More should be do this.