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On Remembrance Day: an act of peace

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A kilted piper and the sounds of Amazing Grace shattered the opening silence at my daughter’s November 11 service at her school. She was in Grade 3.

The principal welcomed representatives from the nearby military base, as well as students and parents who had gathered to remember those who had died in service to their country. A visual presentation began, set to an ominous, pulsating soundtrack. Sad images of crosses in cemeteries and victims of war appeared.

More images followed and I began to get uncomfortable – gun-toting soldiers in action stances, or riding triumphantly atop tanks down dusty streets in some foreign place. I watched the K-5 kids, eyes glued to the screen. I resolved to act.

Later that day, I called the principal and respectfully asked how these violent, forceful images could be shown in a school with an active anti-bullying program, a school that appointed conflict managers on the playground and taught dialogue and negotiation over fighting. I made it clear that I wasn’t against honouring the war dead, but didn’t this presentation advocate for conflict resolution through force? What about the teaching philosophy of the school?

Our school’s principal was gracious, admitting she had never thought of it that way. She said she would have a word with the teacher who put the presentation together.

A year later I returned to take in another Remembrance Day service. The presentation had improved – though there was still room for further improvement.

Most public schools have anti-bullying programs. But what messages does your child’s school send on November 11?

Dan Dyck is director of communications at Mennonite Church Canada.

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