Stories Matter - A New MSMS Class About the Greatest Generation
Story and Photography by West Givens
For the first time, MSMS is offering its students a look into the lives of the brave men and women who are often called the Greatest Generation. The class, entitled World War II, is a morning elective taught by MSMS history instructor Julie Heintz. Even in its first year, the class is a hit. The thirteen students who are taking the class have sacrificed their opportunity to sleep late in order to learn about one of the most significant worldwide events in history.
Shelbi Allen, a senior at MSMS, is taking the class. Shelbi says she has always been interested in WWII, and was already well versed in the topic before she enrolled in the class.
“I had an above average amount of knowledge on the subject beforehand because my mom is a history teacher. She took classes specifically for WWII, and we watched documentaries together,” she said.
Shelbi joined the class because she wants to further her already extensive knowledge of WWII.
“WWII showed the strengths and weaknesses of every country at the time. Namely, it showed how the United States was capable of questionable and great things. I’d like to look more into that,” she said.
Ms. Heintz, the class’s instructor, is equally excited about the course.
“I wanted to put the course in the curriculum because it’s an era of history that, when we reach it in a regular history class, we end up only spending a little bit of time studying it,” she said. “As adults, we always talk about how this group of men and women was the greatest generation, and how so many of them sacrificed their lives so that we could have the freedom we have today. I want to get that message across to the students.”
Heintz wants to focus on the personal narratives of those who experienced the era, rather than cold facts and dates.
“Everyone knows who Hitler was, everybody knows who Mussolini was, but do you know who Captain Charles Dunbar Lancaster Hughes was?” she said. “What was his role in the war? By having the students study an individual that fought in the war, you’re personalizing the numbers.”
Throughout the fall semester, students will learn about WWII through documentary and narrative films, news stories, and texts that Heintz has collected over her years of study. Students will also take part in Heintz’ “Fallen Heroes” project. In this project, students will research an individual that fought in WWII and write a paper and a build a web page about these individuals. The web pages will be linked through the MSMS website in the hope that these legacy of these men and women live on past the grave.