My Back Pages: An Army of Thinkers

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What are the 7th graders in your district discussing? In October 1944, Educational Leadership published the transcript of a radio broadcast featuring 7th graders from Pittsburgh who were debating the question,

Should we have compulsory military training for all youth after the war?

Read the article: Young People Speak Up (PDF)

The students speaking in favor of the proposal offer a variety of reasons that are not limited to issues of national security and defense. Marilyn Simon offers an additional rationale saying, it will “strengthen the bodies and minds of our young men, for they are put through a basic military training period that may seem heavy to lazy people, whose muscles are soft, but is fine for those who have real stuff in them.”

Speaking against the proposal, Charles Sciulli argues that the proposal is “contrary to our democratic ideals . . . we would be defeating the very purpose of this war and we would be reverting to what we have condemned in totalitarian nations.”

This historical debate is a keen reminder of the importance of challenging students to think and reason, particularly in the face of global conflict today—such discussion among our young people seems as critical as ever.

In My Back Pages, we look at important issues through the historical lens of the Educational Leadership archives. ASCD members have access to EL issues from 1943 to the present in the myASCD Online Library. My Back Pages also appears in ASCD Express.

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