War and Remembrance: War Memorials at Worcester Academy

A Public History Project

This public history project in 11th grade American Studies was designed with the mission of the History and Social Science department at Worcester Academy very much in mind, particularly the goals of sharpening communication skills and helping students to see the relevance of History for understanding and solving today’s problems. The idea for this project also came out of a proposal for transforming the Quad (the Academy’s green space) into a learning laboratory as part of a “place-based” approach to education (see QuadLearningLab).

As an institution founded in 1834, the Academy’s history is uniquely suited to serve as a springboard for learning about our nation’s past and connecting it to the present–the possibilities are endless. The war memorials located in the Megaron (a multi-purpose building on campus) provide a case in point. Many members of the community walk by the two plaques in the Megaron everyday. But there is a history to be explored here. The realization that we are all part of something larger than ourselves can also be discovered through a careful examination and analysis of these memorials to faculty and former WA students who served in the catastrophic world wars that dominated much of the 20th Century.

(Click here for an overview of the foundational work and planning that the A, B and D period American Studies in History classes put into this project)

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Overview of the Wars Memorialized at the Academy

The War Memorials at WA

The Men Memorialized

The Enola Gay and Debates in the Field of Public History

A Brief History of Worcester Academy

WWI and II on our campus versus famous memorials in …

Japan and China

Washington D.C.

Germany and France

Popular Perceptions and the World Wars

The videos (above) are a great resource for Part I of the final exam in Dr. Murnane’s American Studies class on June 21, 2015.

Here are the questions:

Part I (Short Essays)

Be specific. Use examples from this year’s course of study. You are allowed to use a note-card with quotes, statistics, or other information on it as a reference. Be sure to include a thesis, road map, and ample evidence. Write at least one paragraph for each of the questions in Part I please.

Take your time. Relax and do quality work.

  1. Explain the major causes of ONE of the wars listed here: WWI, WWII, the Korean War, The Vietnam War, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. (10%)
  2. Explain changes in the way you think about the two war memorials in the Megaron–before we did the memorial project versus after. (10%)
  3. Why do people create memorials? (10%)
  4. What is their meaning or social purpose? (10%)
  5. Does that meaning change overtime? Why? (10%)

Students should consult the Topics page for class entitled “Review for Final Exam” in MyHillTop (the Academy’s intranet system for course materials etc) for Part II of the exam and other information. Thanks for a great year. I enjoyed working with all of the students in my American Studies in History classes this year.

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Final Projects, Introduction to Ethics

At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives. The study of ethics has evolved to encompass a variety of areas and sub-fields–bioethics, business ethics, moral philosophy, etc. This course focused on military and political ethics, on concepts such as “just war” theory and “situational” ethics versus “moral absolutism.” We looked at philosophies regarding war and violence with a particular focus on Mohandas K. Gandhi’s ideas in these areas. We explored Gandhi’s views about the U.S. decision to drop the atomic bomb, World War II and the Holocaust. We looked at contemporary issues as well–such as the U.S. use of torture, drones and economic sanctions during the “War on Terror.”

The final project focused on these contemporary concerns. Three of the groups made websites:





One group created a video on the ethical dilemmas of drone use:

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War and Remembrance: War Memorials at Worcester Academy

A Public History Project

War Memorials at Worcester Academy in Context: Creating a Website on the Memorials in the Megaron

FullSizeRender(3)Small groups will conduct research and explain the two memorials on campus—remembering the First and Second World Wars. The teams will create a companion website meant to contextualize and connect the memorials to larger issues and the history behind them. (A plaque explaining basic information about each memorial with QR codes directing viewers to the companion website will be mounted on the wall in the Megaron or in another appropriate area.)

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  1. For a similar website-project in American Studies, see https://roleofwomenflapper.wordpress.com/
  2. Another possibility is creating an ebook. See 9th grade project from 2013-14 https://murnane.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/the-river-civilizations-ebook-project.pdf
  3. Or, a set of videos organized like this could work: http://www.choices.edu/resources/scholars_vietnam.php


Part I.

A Historical Overview: Foundation for the Project

Students will look at the history of WWI, WWII, the Korean, Vietnam, Afghan and Iraq wars in teams/small groups and give presentations designed to provide an overview of each war in class. Documentaries on each war for context appear below, each team will watch the film associated with their war–three class days on the videos/ 3 classes spent on research and preparing the power point presentation. Presenting the week of April 13th.

(Students recommended that this project start one week earlier next year; I hope to follow this in 2015-2016, when the American Studies groups build on this year’s work as we expand in three areas–more analysis of the information the first groups uncovered; a focus on the WA veterans of other wars without memorials on campus; a look at Warner as another type of memorial, compare it to the war memorials and explore other connections such as classical architecture, wealth and class in American life, labor unions, the role of Hollywood in U.S. culture, and anything else our research uncovers.)

  1. WWI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pxb3j6Ps44c
  2. WWII https://youtu.be/jfRq-JeUCSM
  3. Korea https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzMGZX9eJ1U
  4. Vietnam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzVWfZpQ4TI
  5. Iraq http://youtu.be/sZzSL09hsF0
  6. Afghanistan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mHQkVHZjfc
 warning: some of the images in these documentaries are disturbing (actual battle footage etc)

You will present in teams (or as an individual in A period). I will grade these just like the three presentations you’ve done this year. But they will be longer–15 mins on each war. See rubric: gradingrubricREVISED Be sure to explain:

A. The when-where-and-who–major figures, leaders (presidents, generals, secretaries of defense, etc.)

B. The origins of the war (what were the major causes?)

C. Major events during the war (i.e. the use of the A-bomb towards the end of WWII).

D. The impact of the war on U.S. history, society, etc. (for example, the Vietnam War triggered an anti-war movement that added to the turmoil of the 1960s).

A slideshow of about 8 slides makes sense, a title slide, an introduction and conclusion slide, a work cited slide and one slide on each of the four questions above. Remember, less is more. You are giving the presentation, not reading off of slides. A film clip–1-3 mins.– would help too. Make sure it really captures a key aspect of what you are trying to convey to your audience. Make sure it works well or functions–test it before you present (nothing worse than “technical difficulties” in the middle of a presentation).

Remember our example of an effective power point from earlier this year? https://murnane.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/power-pointprezi-etc-collection-from-american-studies-class-2014/

Part II

Groups and Goals

D Period:  Groups will (1) provide a brief overview of the wars memorialized in the Megaron, (2) explain quotes on memorials and other information about each memorial (Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 12.30.53 PM3) provide biographies of men memorialized on each, (4) explain the context of WA—brief history of, particularly during the war years (1914-1919 and 1941-1945), and (5) recap some of the debates in the field of Public History.


A Period: Another section of the website will compare and contrast the two memorials in the Megaron—do they speak to a change in perceptions about war in American society? If so, how? What changed? Why? (A period class will do this part/ 3 on WWI and 3 students on WWII.)

B period: Finally, a third section of the website will compare interpretations of WWI and II on our campus versus famous memorials in Washington D.C., France, etc and/or popular perceptions of these wars. Do the monuments at WA reflect common ideals and ideas about each war? Or do they differ? Or both? This will include readings by the “LosScreen Shot 2015-03-05 at 12.31.03 PMt Generation” and the debate over the “Good War”.



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* * *Part III

Reading and Discussion (time permitting)

American Studies classes will read and discuss theories and controversies in Public History. We will read excerpts from the works below—there will be reading quizzes and discussions of assigned reading.

Michael Wallace, Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory (1996)

Edward Linenthal, History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past (1996)

Also by Linenthal


John Bodnar, The “Good War” in American Memory (2011). Video, Bodnar on his book: http://www.c-span.org/video/?307703-6/book-discussion-good-war-american-memory

Shal Lopes, The Wall: Images and Offerings from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1987).

Carol Highsmith, Forgotten No More: The Korean War Veterans Memorial Story (2007).

Part IV

Culminating Essay (time permitting)

Finally, All students will then write an essay responding to the Essential Questions below (these essay will be available as downloads on the site mentioned above):

  • How are these wars (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq) remembered in American society?
  • How are they remembered on the Worcester Academy campus?
  • What do you think of the memorial on campus or the lack thereof?
  • Why do people create memorials?
  • What is their meaning or social purpose?
  • Does that meaning change overtime? Why?


Full text of quote on the WWI plaque: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1865/09/ode-recited-at-the-harvard-commemoration-july-21-1865/303955/

http://www.pbs.org/theydrewfire/index.html (Artists during WWII)

http://massvvm.org/ http://mass.historicbuildingsct.com/?p=5373


“Japan’s Monroe Doctrine? Re-Framing the Story of Pearl Harbor,” The History Teacher (August, 2007). Japan’s Monroe Doctrine PDF


The Megaron at 100 years old

A History of Worcester Academy by Frank Callahan ’71

Program from 1947, Worcester Academy Dedication of the World War II Memorial:

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-01 FullSizeRender-02FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-01FullSizeRender-02-1

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CNN’s Ones to Watch

Thought-provoking episode on architecture


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Real-World Graduation Project Videos: Select Samples




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The Power of the President

 American Government, E period class video


President George W. Bush and the Abuse of Power

President Obama and the Abuse of Presidential Power

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Gandhi and Ethics

  • Ahimsa (click here), this is a concept Gandhi refers to in his writings.
  • Gandhi on non-violence (click here)

  • Gandhi on the development of the atomic bomb (click here)

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