Thursday, September 8, 2016

Scott Glew - The Humanities as a Bridge Over the Civilian-Military Divide

Scott Glew is a dedicated Veteran of the Minnesota Army National Guard from Elk River who clearly demonstrates his motivation to create a better world. After eight years of service, including a deployment to Iraq, he began his career as a social studies teacher. Motivated by a belief that a better future requires an informed and engaged citizenry and that education is its foundation, he is dedicated to creating a classroom environment where students are challenged to use history, civics, geography, and economics to deepen their understanding of the world and make a difference. Beyond the classroom, he is committed to improving and advocating for social studies education. Scott is an active leader in social studies curriculum and instruction within his school district. He serves on the board of directors for both the Minnesota Council for History Education and the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies and is conducting graduate research on citizenship and peace at the University of Minnesota. Scott is a recipient of the 2015 Veterans’ Voices Award.

Despite the fact that our country has been actively at war for nearly 15 years, the American people are more disconnected from our military than ever before. Collectively, we revere and love to cheer for “The Troops,” but we pay little attention to what we ask them to do, and we have a shallow understanding of what it means to experience war. In a democratic society, the consequences of this disengagement are dire. As citizens, we cannot properly empower policymakers to make good decisions about war and peace if we ourselves are not invested in the results. My concern grows even more when I think about my students, none of whom were alive on September 11, 2001. From their perspective, war is both normal and something from which they are disconnected. As our conflicts happen far away and directly involve only a tiny percentage of our fellow citizens, these connections will not develop on their own. We must consider how the humanities can help to bridge the divide between citizens and their military.

I have seen the Minnesota Humanities Center’s focus on “what connects us rather than what divides us” in action during the past year through their Veterans’ Voices program and I believe its current impact is real and its potential for the future is limitless. This Sunday, September 11, people from around the state will gather at the Veterans’ Voices Award Ceremony to recognize and hear the stories of Veterans who are making extraordinary contributions to their communities. This highly visible event is just one piece of an extensive program that is successfully connecting citizens to the diverse and complex stories of Veterans. Our collective understanding of war and peace will become richer as Veterans are empowered to share their experiences, as educators gain access to relevant professional development and resources, and as the general public comes together in dialogue to challenge conventional narratives and perceptions. The Humanities Center, through their Veterans’ Voices program, is making this happen.

My concerns are deep, but so is my hope for the future. I believe that the public truly cares about the service members and Veterans among us. While my cynical side often feels that our common expressions of support are superficial, the optimist in me believes that we want to do more, but aren’t sure how. Additionally, I get to work every day with students who are curious about the world around them and genuinely interested in stories of service and the topics of war and peace. They are also excited to collaborate and make the world a better place, and are hoping that we will show them how. It is imperative that we focus on the humanities in our communities and emphasize powerful social studies education in our schools so that we can share with each other-- as citizens--the opportunities and tools we need to grow together and develop meaningful connections with the people we send to war.

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