Blogs > Cliopatria > What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate (2 of 2)

Sep 24, 2011

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate (2 of 2)

See part one here.

In her recent essay at the CHE, UT-Arlington Professor Joyce Goldberg describes a sudden new classroom environment that has made it "untenable" for her to go on teaching military history: "Although I taught the class regularly and, I believe, successfully for nearly 30 years, a situation I encountered last semester makes continuing to do so untenable...[T]he discomfort I endured last semester was something new. From the start, I realized that many students in the class were not as interested in exploring the seminal issues of U.S. military history as they were in finding solace, seeking closure, or securing an understanding of their own—or, in many cases, their loved ones'—recent military experiences."

She's describing a shift, a sharp change after thirty years of experience. Suddenly, students are showing up with a need to find solace and seek closure because of their military experiences. Here's who they were: "It turned out that more than half of the class, which began with 56 students, were either ROTC students, members of the National Guard, students who would soon enlist, retired "lifers," veterans from the first Gulf War, veterans of one or several recent overseas deployments, or loved ones of service people. One student's husband had died in Iraq."

So the disruption caused by people "seeking closure" was occasioned by the presence of, among the others, "students who would soon enlist" and "ROTC students." Students who would soon enlist have never been in the military, but represent their intention to one day sign up; ROTC students are training to become military officers in the future. What closure and solace are they seeking?

But go on with the list. Suddenly, in 2011, "veterans from the first Gulf War" -- twenty years ago, 1990 to 1991 -- appear in a classroom in Texas, "seeking closure." Why?

Keep going:

"As the semester progressed, it became increasingly clear just how unprepared universities are to deal with the needs of these student veterans or their relatives...Some students admitted privately that they themselves were suffering from PTSD, but for various reasons had rejected available help. As we approached the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a retired Air Force officer asked permission to recount his experiences searching for bodies in the rubble because he had been advised that it would help with his post-trauma disorder."

The Oklahoma City bombing? So "the discomfort I endured last semester was something new," in part because a military officer appeared in class in 2011 "seeking closure" from an event that took place in 1995.

I welcome commenters to make an argument about why these claims make sense.

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