Ethos Education

War Horse: How do warring nations and individuals establish peace once war has come to an end?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding of how relationships are restored after times of conflict.
  • Awareness of Christian individuals, groups or communities who work for peace and reconciliation.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the role of preconceptions in how people see each other.
  • Analyse a film clip to determine how individuals can break down nationalist stereotypes.
  • Reflect upon the appropriateness of praying for ones enemies.
  • Analyse Bible verses to determine Christian attitudes towards the victims of war, regardless of nationality.
  • Research opportunities for ordinary people to respond to the problems of war refugees and other victims of war.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a letter to a newspaper explaining a Christian perspective on the treatment of victims of war.

STARTER:

Put the students in pairs, and give each student a copy of the Psychological Guess Who? handout. Explain that you are going to play a game of Psychological Guess Who? You might prefer to have just one pair of students play the game in front of the class (or one student competing against you) using the equipment from the original Guess Who? game. Click here to buy the game from Amazon if you wish to do this and do not already have access to a set. You can make the game work perfectly well without buying a set, using our handout and a pen or pencil to cross off eliminated characters.

In the classic version of the game Guess Who?, one player chooses one person from a selection of characters and the other player has to identify the chosen character by asking yes or no questions such as ‘Are you male?’ or ‘Do you wear glasses?’ and eliminating possible suspects as a result of the answers. In Psychological Guess Who?, students have to ask less quantifiable questions, such as ‘Do you have an inferiority complex?’, ‘Do you have a difficult relationship with your father?’, or ‘Are you generous with money?’ The first player decides the appropriate answer for their chosen character and answers either yes or no. The second player then decides which of the remaining characters they think should be eliminated, and continues until they are down to one character. If this is the same character that the first player chose, they win.

If students ask how they are supposed to determine the answers to these questions, tell them to use their judgement and decide which faces to eliminate on the basis of the answers. Of course, it is entirely possible – if not almost certain – that the two players will come to different conclusions about the respective characters in the game, one of them deciding that Fiona was, for example, a Mummy’s girl and the other deciding that she wasn’t.

Ask the students if any players managed to correctly identify their partner’s chosen character, and congratulate anyone who achieved this unlikely feat. Ask why the game was so difficult, and draw out that all the answers were based on the random prejudices of the players, deciding all sorts of things about the characters without having a firm basis for any of their conclusions. Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about war, and in particular thinking about challenging the preconceptions that war encourages people to build up about their enemies.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from the film War Horse (Touchstone, 2011, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that the clip takes place during the First World War and ask the students to pay particular attention to the attitudes that the British and German soldiers have towards one another throughout the clip.

  • Start time: 1.46.34 (beginning of chapter 23 of the DVD)
  • End time: 1.54.48
  • Clip length: 8 minutes and 14 seconds

The clip starts with a British soldier shouting, ‘Stand to, stand to’. It ends with Peter the German soldier (actor) commenting, ‘Remarkable. A remarkable horse’. Please note that this clip includes several instances of mild swearing. If you want a swearing-free version of the clip, start at 1.49.50 (first line: the German soldier saying, ‘I thought perhaps you might need these.’) If you are using the shorter clip, you will have to explain that a British soldier has ventured into no-man’s land in order to free a horse trapped by barbed wire.

Ask the students how the relationship between Colin and Peter changed during the course of the clip. What factors brought about those changes? Draw out factors such as working together in a common cause and finding out more about each other as people (rather than as a faceless, nameless ‘enemy’). Draw out the way that each of them made several references – some humorous, some more pointed – to preconceptions about the relative merits of their respective nations. How does war encourage people to see their enemies through these preconceptions and get in the way of building positive relationships?

Ask the students how their observations about Colin and Peter could be applied to building relationships between nations who have fought each other in war or otherwise been involved in conflict.

In the official memorial service to mark the end of the Falklands war in 1982, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, was criticised for asking worshippers to remember the Argentinian dead as well as the British. Then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was reportedly livid with him for including the Argentinians in his prayers.

Do the students think that Runcie was right to pray for both sides, or should the memorial have focused exclusively on the British point of view? How do they think serving soldiers would feel about Runcie’s inclusiveness? What difference (if any) does it make to this discussion if they knew that Runcie had served as a tank commander in the Second World War and was awarded the Military Cross for two separate feats of bravery? You may want to refer students to Matthew 5:43-48 with reference to this.

To help the students to think about attitudes towards those affected by war, on either side of the conflict, ask the students to read some or all of the following Bible passages (you choose which) and to write down a short account of what each passage has to say about Christian concern for people who have been affected by war.

Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 23:15-16; Proverbs 31:8-9; Zechariah 7:9-10; Matthew 25:31-46; James 1:27.

Ask the students whether they think that it is possible for ordinary people to make any difference to the lives of war refugees.

Ask students to research the organisation War Child – www.warchild.org.uk – and to use information from their website to prepare a brief written answer to the question, ‘What can ordinary individuals do to improve the circumstances of the victims of war?’

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to write a letter to a local newspaper, explaining why people should be concerned with the fate of people affected by war and offering suggestions on action that ordinary people can take to make a difference. The letter should offer a specifically Christian perspective on why this is an issue with which people should concern themselves.

YOU WILL NEED:

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