The young George C. Marshall was not a very good student. He said that his “school teachers bored him to death with dates and dry facts, even regarding as fascinating and unique a character as Benjamin Franklin.” Later he said he “came to realize the tremendous importance of a knowledge of world history to the citizens of a democracy.” He also became a big fan of history teachers “because wisdom in action in our Western democracies rest squarely upon public understanding, I have long believed that our schools have a key role to play. Peace could, I believe, be advanced through careful study of all the factors which have gone into the various incidents now historical that have marked the breakdown of peace in the past.”
The Foundation supports Marshall’s idea that history and access to its primary sources are important for both students and teachers. Each year we partner with or host events that help social studies teachers bring history alive for their students. Two such events are the Teacher Institute and the Marshall Immersion Workshop.
The Teacher Institute, a partnership with the Virginia War Memorial, consists of eight one-day professional development opportunities offered free of charge to public and private school teachers of USII and VA/US history. They are held at the Virginia War Memorial and partner locations around the Commonwealth of Virginia. All programs are aligned with the Virginia History and Social Science Standards. This year’s theme was “Teaching Marshall: General of the Army George C. Marshall and the American Century” with guest speaker LTC Brad Coleman, Director of the John H. Adams Center for Military History and Strategic Analysis at VMI. Teachers also received a tour of the library and archives as well as a demonstration of the digital resources available to them on our website.
The Marshall Immersion Workshop is a program open to a limited number of high school-level history teachers and department heads from the United States and Marshall Plan countries. It is organized by the George C. Marshall International Center in Leesburg, Virginia. A significant aspect of the workshop emphasizes Marshall’s use of diplomacy as a tool for rebuilding Europe after World War II. Participants coming to Lexington have the opportunity to study original documents relating to some of Marshall’s most important work. Some of the topics being researched this year are Persuasion: “Why We Fight”; The Life of the Citizen Soldier during WWII; The Role of Women during WWII; African-Americans in WWII; Patton: The Movie; The Relief of MacArthur; and the China Mission.
Marshall was a bit of an education visionary. He thought it would be a “fine thing if a way were found to amplify or improve the teaching of history through the medium of the motion picture in our grammar and high schools. I believe a man with the talents of Frank Capra could present outlines of certain broad phases of history in such a manner that it would make a deep impression on the schoolboy.” He wouldn’t be surprised that the Foundation uses tools such as YouTube to help educate students about his life and the history he made.