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(caption title) What Shall We Teachers Do?
Greenville, N. C.
East Carolina Teachers Training School
Call number C370.5 T76 v. 4 (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Appears in Training school quarterly. Vol. 4, no. 3 (Oct., Nov., Dec. 1917)
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WE are at War. We must help to win the War. Our friends, our brothers are leaving for the front. Tomorrow they shall take their place in the trenches of Flanders. Shall we sit idle, whilst they do battle for us?
What shall we teachers do? We hold in our hands the activities of innumerable children. We influence the actions of their parents. Shall we neglect our task of training these thousands in the higher virtues of genuine patriotism?
Our enemy, Germany, is training her least school children to the highest war service. What shall we do?
First of all, let the Teacher understand the War. To be ignorant of the causes that led up to the world conflict is unworthy of our profession. If, perchance, you have neglected this simple information, take out your geography and have a look at Europe. On the European sea-board lie the liberal countries of that continent, England, Holland, Belgium, France, Italy, and, away from the sea, Switzerland. Russia, recently declared a republic, lies at the eastern extremity of Europe. Between these two extremes lie the Central Lands, Germany and Austria. These two countries are highly organized and their citizens trained in the art of war. They count their soldiers by the millions. These millions, especially in Germany, are held at the command of one man, the Kaiser. The people of Germany believe that their Kaiser is appointed by God to rule their country. He is responsible to no one but to himself. A neighbor like the Kaiser is dangerous; no man should have in his power the liberty and lives of millions of men.
Around the Kaiser revolved a constellation of noblemen called Junkers. These are the great proprietors of Prussia, and they virtually control all the higher positions of the Government. They are hearty supporters of the claims of the Kaiser; they live in his light. They are aristocrats whom the rest of Europe has never loved. They are noted for their superciliousness; they are the military caste of their country. They are hated even in Germany. Under their care and direction the army of Germany became a most perfect machine of destruction and of death. It was a perpetual threat to the peace and welfare of the neighbor nations.
This danger, always imminent, became a reality when Germany marched her armies through Belgium and threw to the four winds the treaty she had signed with us and other nations to protect that country. We were immensely interested in this invasion from the very first. Any contract or treaty between nations should be as sacred as the signed word of individuals. It should be more so. We stood in horror at this insolent assault on Belgium. We did not protest because we thought our protest inopportune.
This crime prepared the way for other crimes. In turn, we had the sinking of the Lusitania, the destruction of our factories, the repeated sinking of our ships, the wanton slaughter of hundreds of Americans. We saw Belgians deported from their homes, we saw youthful girls taken from Lille and carried to Germany; we saw arson, rapine, desolation--and we were at war. We ceased to be neutral in our minds from the time the first German army assaulted Liege. We tried to be neutral in fact. But the time came when even our neutrality in action had to be abandoned. We drew the sword that the world might be made safe for democracy. "He that is not with Me is against Me," said Christ. "He who is not with me in my conduct of the war is against me," cried the Emperor of Germany. We could not be with him in the sack of villages, the murder of innocent men, women and children; we could not approve of his massacre of Aerschot, his burning of Louvain, his extermination of the Armenians. We were against crime; we declared war on the perpetrators of the biggest outrages in history; we were against him!
We are at war because we believe in the right of every man to life and freedom, because we believe in the sanctity of the home; because we believe in the liberty of nations.
Knowing the cause of this international conflict, it behooves us to know who the prominent men are that have part in it. To know who Waddell, Harnett, Daniel Boone, John Sevier and other equally worthy men were is praiseworthy. To be ignorant of the great men of the present war is worthy of condemnation. Who are the Kaiser, the Crown Prince, King Albert, King George, Lloyd-George, Michaelis, Joffre, Petain, Von Hindenburg, etc.? Where are Ypres, Verdun, Riga, Bagdad, and what are the most important places of battle?
The daily papers have never been more interesting. The world is afire; the journals bring us daily the reports of the conflagration. Shall we remain uninformed when even the least of our students are interested?
A few days study will easily make us acquainted with all these simple facts. We have no right to be ignorant of the great men who have
part in the struggle. Especially should we know what America is doing. Who are our generals? What is our hospital staff doing? Who are our great men?
Knowledge of these facts will stimulate our souls to contribute actively to the success of the war. And here is the part we can actively play:
1. We can remain in touch with our folks and our friends at the front. We can send letters, mail literature. We have more time to write than our boys have. The letters from home should be more frequent than those from the camp.
2. We can get in touch with some soldier who has no friends at home. The French girls have "the godmother work." They obtain information concerning some one who receives no letters. They send him all sorts of little things. They "adopt" him.
3. We can actively contribute our work to the Red Cross Society. It will be almost a crime to make Christmas presents for each other this year, wasting our time on trifles, when some sore-wounded soldier will need the thousand and one cares of the Red Cross. Away with the Christmas useless gifts! In a time of stress like this a mere Christmas card will suffice. Our soldiers need all manner of hospital help. Why not give it?
4. Our school children can do "busy work" and help. There are trench torches to be made that will keep some boy from freezing in the chilly trenches in Flanders. The climate is cold, damp, moist. A piece of paper and some paraffin will save a life--maybe the life of your very friend or brother.
Children, even in the First Grades, can do service. They can bring rags and cut them into little bits. Rag-pillows are needed by the thousands, by the hundred thousands. A card to Mrs. Isaac Manning, Chapel Hill, will bring the needed information. Then there are arm-slings to be made of old sugar sacks, etc.
5. We can help the fight by eating mostly things that we have abundantly. Our Allies have no sugar. They never have learned to eat corn bread. They need wheat, wheat, wheat!
6. Think of the school teacher who shall have created unbounded enthusiasm in garden work, in canning and preserving. There shall be a pig club in her school, there shall be a poultry club, a dairy club. Our Allies need the food that we can produce, we must produce it!
7. We can save in clothes, in shoes. A patched shoe will be a sensible shoe. Think of the thousands who are barefooted because the leather supply of the world is so heavily taxed. A patched coat will not be without honor. The time has come to save more than we ever saved. Wasting is a crime!
8. We can save in food. Think of the tons of good bread, good food that is wasted on the school grounds! What about a school-pig fed on the things that are generally thrown away?
9. Best of all, we can cultivate a spirit of devotion to our country, a spirit of loyalty that will make every teacher proud. We can teach a spirit of self-possession, of sacrifice, a spirit which the wealth of recent years has made us almost forget.
This great war is reëstablishing the value of things. We have placed too much importance on things that are unnecessary. Now the call is for patriotism, for self-denial, for all the greater moral factors in the lives of the individual, in the life of the Nation. We are rebaptized into a broader, a nobler, a more spiritual life. Shall we teachers pursue the even teaching of grammar, of geography, of writing and arithmetic, and forget the greater teaching of Life itself?
Because of their belief in these, the greater things of life, our sailors sail our seas, our soldiers stand in the water-soaked trenches of Flanders. Because of these ideals Belgium gave her life, France bled herself white! Hundreds and thousands of men are at this moment bleeding, dying on the battlefields. Our very sons, brothers, friends are crossing the waves. The American flag is waving over the plains of Flanders, on the hills of Northern France. This is no dream, this is an actuality. This War is here! We shall do our part to win it.