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↑Civic Progress. January 17, 1925↓
THE TEACHING OF PEACE NEEDS TO BE ORGANIZED
by General PERCIN
ON March 11, 1022, under the title "We must destroy the spirit of war," Le Progrés Civique published an article in which I enumerated the best means of killing the spirit of war. In the forefront: the reform of methods of childhood education. I made the following suggestions:
It is necessary to act on the children by new methods of education.
In particular, the curricula for teaching history must be transformed.
It is necessary, in study books, to glorify, not the great men of war, but the great benefactors of humanity.
It is no longer necessary, under the pretext of physical education, to group the children into school battalions, and lead them to the gymnasium to the sound of the bugle.
Pacifism must be fashionable, as warmongering has been until now.
This article has earned me many endorsements; it was generally said that I was right. But what has been attempted to make my suggestions penetrate into reality?
Absolutely nothing that I know of.
However, an opportunity to do something presented itself on November 11th. A press release of October 24, 1924 had announced that the anniversary of the armistice would be celebrated with a parade of arms in front of the Arc de Triomphe, and with lessons given in schools on the armistice and the League of Nations. . But the spirit in which these lessons would be given and whether victory or peace would be glorified were not specified.
The university authority left the field open to the teachers and each lecturer could therefore say what he wanted.
It is to be feared that a certain number are inspired by the official speeches delivered during the countless inaugurations of war memorials and which glorify victory rather than peace.
Read the next day's newspapers. They profusely mention the procession of the troops in front of the Arc de Triomphe, with their combat tanks, their automobile batteries, their groups of armored cars, and the two hundred and fifty flags, whose fabric "waved by the wind, produced a truly magical spectacle." my infestation of forest, not of peace.
But of the lessons given in the schools, the newspapers did not breathe a word. No doubt they were considered an unimportant formality.
This indifference of the public authorities with regard to the teaching of peace is deeply regrettable. If individuals act alone, we will never succeed in killing the spirit of war. Even today, he; requires a certain civic courage to publicly call oneself a pacifist. Warmongering is better worn.
In a provincial town where, a year ago, a monument was inaugurated in memory of the children of the country who died for France, the organizers of the demonstration had the words "War on war" inscribed on this monument. The local authority had this inscription removed, as seditious!
It has often been said that in France, it was the law of March 28, 1882, on free and compulsory primary education, which made France republican. . . It is the teaching of the teacher who co-consolidated the Republic: it is this teaching which, if the government wills it, will create the spirit of peace.
Son of an academic inspector, who often took me with him when he went to inspect a village school, I know perfectly well the mentality of country children and that of their teachers. I know the great influence that these have on those, and even on the parents of those. The teacher is in most rural communes, the man who sets the tone. He is much better qualified to spread the ideas of peace than our most learned writers and our most eloquent statesmen.
But teachers need guidance. They should be given homework programs and study books inspired by the spirit of peace. We must provide them with the spirit of peace. It is necessary to provide them with wall charts indicating what the wars cost, in men and money. They should be recommended to put in the hands of the pupils notebooks on the cover of which one sees images and pacifist maxims, and not drawings representing machine guns or episodes of combat.
This desideratum has just been revised, not by the Minister of Public Instruction, not even by an Inspector General of the University, but by a [page 2] simple provincial teacher, Maurice Woullens, at the same time director of the magazine Les Humbles, which is published in rue Deserarles, in Paris. Number 10 of this journal, entitled "La guerrer," constitutes an 80-page brochure, in which one finds important data for organizing the teaching of peace.
There are homework programs, selected pieces by authors such as, among the ancients, La Bruyère, Condorcet, Edmond About, Edgard Quinet, Erckmann-Chatrian, Emile Zola, and, among the moderns, Roland Dorgelès. Henri Barbusse, Paul Cazin, Antonin Seubl, Léon Weth, Marcelle Capy, Georges Duhamel, Jolinon, Georges Duhamel, Jolinon, Georges Adrian, etc.
There are pacifist maxims by Voltaire, Pascal, Montaigne, Lamartine, Bossuet, Fénelon, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Jules Simon, Guy de Maupassant, Romain Rolland, etc.
There are poems, songs, and even statements of arithmetic problems, the data of which will direct the mind of the student towards your ideas of peace.
The pupil, for example, is asked not, as is commonly done, how much, given the price of cloth and that of labor, a tailor makes on a garment made and sold under certain conditions, but how much, given the price of a child, we could clothe and feed children, for a certain time. with the cost of projectiles fired by a battery, during the same time.
We thus show the student that, if we estimate at 6 francs a day the cost of the maintenance and food of a child, we could have, with the 26 billion francs that the projectiles cost us of artillery consumed during the last war, clothe and feed 11 million children for four years (1).
We show him that with the 182 billion francs that the war cost us, he was able to clothe and feed half the French population during the same time.
He is also made to demonstrate that with the price of a single cannon shot, a worker could be provided, each day, with the 750 grams of bread he needs, for about a month, a year, fifteen years. or thirty years, depending on whether the caliber of the gun is 75, 155, 305, or 540 millimeters.
We make him demonstrate that with the proximity of our war island, we could provide each of the communes of France with five agricultural machines.
He was made to demonstrate that with the wool of a torpedoed merchant ship, carrying 2,000 bats of wool weighing 175 kilograms each, 15,000 children could have been dressed.
He is made to deny that our fifteen hundred thousand dead would form a mule column as long as the distance which separates Paris from Marscille, and that the departure from this column would last six days and six nights.
These figures struck the pupil's imagination, and inspired him with the horror of war, where ammunition, supplies, provisions and human lives are wasted.
Maurice Woullens asks, last but not least, that the pupil be given one of the pages he has chosen from the books written on the war, and that he be made to comment on it.
He asks to be given a poem, and to have it summarized for him.
I don't believe anyone has ever prepared a peace education program with such care.
Maurice Woullens' brochure should be in the hands of all teachers, all fathers concerned about the pacifist education of their children, all friends of peace.
In my aforementioned article in Progrès Cvique, I recalled that on November 21, 1921, Mr. Briand, then on mission in America, had spoken the following words:
The elimination of war material is the material side of things. Disarmament must be moral as well as material.
I also recalled that, on February 25, 1920, Colonel Fabry, reporter of the draft law relating to the class 1920 enlistments, had said, to the applause of the Chamber:
We must agree on the meaning of the word 'disarmament. Some people think it's enough to take weapons out of the hands of people who can carry them. Above all, in my opinion, it is necessary to disarm the mind.
It is not the weapons of war that must be destroyed, it is the spirit of war that must be killed.
It is time to move from talk and applause to action. We must organize the teaching of peace.
It is a great support in life to despise villainy and outrage.
(1) Maurice Woullens was unaware of this figure of 26 billion. It was I who introduced him into the data of his problems. I borrowed it from a communication made on March 12, 1919, by Senator Hubert, to the Army Commission.