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World War One

Based on the article by Piotr Szlanta: Święto Wojny (Feast of the War) , "Mówią wieki" (The centuries speak) 08/2009


Katarzyna Czekaj

Społeczna Akademia Nauk


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Basic information

The presented module deals with the issue of the outbreak of World War I and its coverage in popular science magazines (in this case – in Polish, German and Spanish periodicals), as well as in Polish school textbooks. The subject matter of the articles, along with the suggested tasks, focuses on the reaction of the societies of various countries in Europe and the world to the events that took place in the summer of 1914. Comparing the presentation of that topic in texts coming from several different countries helps students to understand the various ways of perceiving the same facts and events by historians and readers of different nationalities. Thanks to the analysis of the said texts, students learn that the outbreak of that international conflict, as well as the issue of responsibility for its escalation, in 1914 were interpreted in a completely different way than they are in our times. The perspectives varied not only in individual countries, but also among individual groups in one society. The module includes both text analysis exercises (concerning popular science articles and texts in school textbooks) and iconographic material analysis. The module particularly focuses on linking the discussed historical issues to still relevant problems known to students, such as the role of marketing and propaganda in shaping the public feeling and societies' perception of armed conflicts in the past and nowadays.

Reference to the core curriculum

Pursuant to the history core curriculum in Poland, the topic of the article corresponds to the issues discussed during the last year of the third stage of education (the third year in lower secondary school, when students are 15-16 years old), as well as the extended history curriculum at the forth stage of education (students at the age of 16-19). In the interdisciplinary education (combining history teaching with social sciences and elements of sociology and political science introduced as part of the civic education subject, or with Polish and foreign languages teaching), the tasks presented in the module can be used for the purposes of education in lower secondary school (students at the age of 13-16), as well as in upper secondary school (students at the age of 16-19).

Educational goals

Tasks suggested in the module allow for acquisition and development of such skills as analysis and critical evaluation of text along with iconographic material. In addition, they can be used for the improvement of students' media and intercultural competences. Using various sources of knowledge (such as articles in popular science magazines, school textbooks and Internet databases), students learn how to individually search and verify information and tell which information is reliable and objective and which is unreliable and subjective. Using materials of various character and style (texts from the period, images and drawings, promotional leaflets and propaganda posters, caricatures) when performing tasks improves the students' competences in the area of obtaining information from various sources, their evaluation, comparison and finally – reaching one's own conclusions. Moreover, juxtaposing various materials that discuss similar topics, but come from different countries, develops the ability of discerning various points of view and forming one's own opinions, as well as pointing out the reasons for discrepancies in perceiving the history that arise from national, cultural and political differences. The goal of tasks suggested in the module is also the development of the ability of using one's knowledge about history to interpret modern problems which student encounter in their everyday lives.

The method of presenting the topic in Polish school textbooks

Polish school textbooks present the issue of World War I in two contexts. Students learn above all about the reasons of the outbreak of that global conflict, as well as about the stages of increasing tension in international relations at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries caused by the global superpowers' colonial policy and growing economic, ideological and social gaps in Europe. They also analyse the formation of political blocs – the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. School textbooks briefly discuss the course of war, focusing on the character of military actions and the consequences of war for the development of technology, as well as economic situation and social changes in individual countries. On the other hand, in Polish textbooks the course of WWI is inseparably related to the issue of the Polish fight for independence and creation of a sovereign state as a result of the defeat suffered by all the partitioners: Russia, Austria and Prussia. Hence, in the context of the World War I, Polish textbooks discuss a broad range of topics, including: individual partitioners' attitude to the Polish cause, political orientations created in Polish society before 1914, armed efforts of the Poles on the war fronts and the evolution of the Polish cause in the international arena as influenced by the events of 1914-1918. Thus, in this case, the topic of war is closely connected to the issue of regaining independence by Poland, which, from the Polish perspective, is the most important result of that global armed conflict.

Katarzyna Czekaj

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