Technology, War, and Education

From NBCLearn, here’s a series of short videos focused on WWII aircraft, technology, and people and intended for K-12 classroom use.  Each video is accompanied by two lesson plans, one focused on relevant STEM topics and the other with “social studies” topics.

For example, the STEM lesson plan that goes with the Pearl Harbor video is mainly about the attributes of the Zero Fighter .  The “social studies” lesson starts with the teacher asking students “Who wants to tell the class what has been happening in Europe since World War I” and “Who wants to tell the class what has been happening in the eastern hemisphere?”  (it would be interesting to hear some of the answers) and then progresses to other related topics, including a comparison of FDR’s speech after Pearl Harbor with the speech of GWB after 9/11.

I thought it was an interesting and worthwhile approach.  I would have preferred the videos to be a little longer (they’re about 5 minutes each), and thought there were some missed opportunities, misguided emphases, and a few apparent actual errors in some of the lesson plans.  For example, the “social studies” piece on the Night Witches (female Russian night bomber pilots) could have included something about the situation in the Soviet Union at the time, and the Eastern Front War in general…same point for The Flying Tank, the video about the Sturmovik ground attack plane.  The lesson on the B-17 Ball Turret could have usefully included a link the Randall Jarrell’s brutal poem, Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.  The STEM lesson plan on the ME-262 jet fighter talks about the benefits of the swept wing for “balance on its nosewheel”…”it also made the ME-262 faster”–but didn’t really get across the reasons why a swept wing is important as airspeeds get near the speed of sound.  The discussion of the Po-2 biplane used by the Night Witches implies that the plane had good gliding capabilities:  I seriously doubt this, given the low wing aspect ratio (as noted in the lesson plan) and the high drag generally characteristic of the biplane types. It would glide fine, but not for far…which was appropriate given its mission.

I thought that, overall, this was a very worthwhile effort.  The videos were co-produced with Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions.  NBCLearn also has a whole lot of other educational videos.

10 thoughts on “Technology, War, and Education”

  1. I thought the interview with the German pilot who flew the FW-190 ended on an interesting note:

    BRUNOTTE: When the war was over, we were astonished. We positioned the planes nicely, and handed them over.

    SNOW: After flying over 560 missions, Brunotte reluctantly surrenders to Allied forces.

    BRUNOTTE: Personally, I couldn’t cope with it. Damn it!

    Surprising that (if he remembers correctly) he was surprised at the defeat…I thought most Germans by that point would have thought it was only a matter of time.

  2. Grurray…I knew there were a lot of bitter-enders, but would have thought most of them knew that the game was up and just wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.

    There were certainly a lot of deserters in those final days, even given the summary executions that were taking place.

  3. I could understand the Germans doing suicide attacks on the Soviets. I have read there were long lines of Germans trying to get to the west to surrender to the Americans, and probably the British,.

    A friend of mine is the son of a German soldier who was captured by the Soviets. His mother visited her husband and went back the next day and was told he had died of “pneumonia .”

    She got the kids out of Europe to Minnesota. They became naturalized citizens and he became one the most famous Marine Corps fighter pilots. He did almost 500 missions in Vietnam and was the first Marine Corps Top Gun pilot.

  4. Yeah, the Russians weren’t exactly taking prisoners at the end, if you couldn’t run west, and couldn’t clearly pass as a total nobody, it seems going down fighting would have more appeal than surrendering and facing very likely execution either immediately or after torture and/or imprisonment.

  5. The Russians weren’t taking prisoners period. Including a number of American airmen that disappeared. Most of the few Russian prisoners that survived German captivity were sent directly to the Gulag.

  6. Samizdata has a post touching on the effect the Red Army’s WWII actions had on the Cold War.

    Quoting from the quote:

    The incidence of rape and other forms of brutality was so much greater on the Soviet than on the western side that it played a major role in determining which way Germans would tilt in the Cold War that was to come. It ensured a pro-western orientation from the very beginning of that conflict, which surely helps to account for why the West German regime was able to establish itself as a legitimate government while its East German counterpart never did.

  7. It ensured a pro-western orientation from the very beginning of that conflict,

    At least until the war generation passed on. Then came the East German Chancellor.

  8. Deep Lurker: It ensured a pro-western orientation from the very beginning of that conflict..
    Michael K: At least until the war generation passed on. Then came the East German Chancellor..

    Agreed, but bear in mind that an anti-Ami/not pro-Western sentiment in some of the postwar generation was evident before Merkel became Chancellor in 2005. Consider Herta Däubler-Gmelin. Back in 2002, when she was Germany’s Minister of Justice, she created international headlines by comparing President Bush to Hitler and by calling the American justice system “lousy.”
    It turns out that Herta Däubler-Gmelin was born in 1943 in Slovakia, where Hans Gmelin, her jurist father, helped dispense Nazi justice as the principal deputy to Hanns Ludin. Ludin was in charge of the Nazi satellite state of Slovakia. After the war, Ludin was executed for war crimes.
    Hans Gmelin helped facilitate the transport of Jews to the death camps.

    Documentary evidence discussed in an April 25, 2005 article in the Schwäbische Tagblatt indicates that Hans Gmelin was directly involved in the deportation of Slovakian Jews to the Nazi death camps. As author Hans-Joachim Lang notes:
    Whether Eichmann was announcing his arrival [in Bratislava] or railway officials came by to discuss “questions relating to the shipment of Jews” or the Reich Central Security Office was welcoming the Slovak government’s “making available of railway equipment,” initials on the documents always confirmed who had been informed: for example, “Gm” for Gmelin.

    An estimated 70,000 Slovakian Jews, representing over three-fourths of the pre-War Jewish population, died in the Nazi camps.

    Hans Gmelin spent three years in prison after the war. He later spent 20 years as Mayor of Tübingen.
    Herta Däubler-Gmelin ‘s Wikipedia page in English mentions that she was born in Slovakia in 1943, but doesn’t inform us why her father was in Slovakia during WW2. Nor does it mention that he was in prison for three years. (The German Wiki on her father is more forthcoming.) It only mentions that her father was mayor for 20 years
    I suspect that Herta Däubler-Gmelin’s condemnation of George W. Bush, and her “lousy” characterization of American justice, were attempts to show that her Daddy and Germany weren’t the only guilty parties. Herta Däubler-Gmelin is not responsible for her father’s actions during World War II, but from her criticisms of the US, it appears that she feels some responsibility for her father’s actions during WW2, or that she resents the punishment meted out to her father. As such, we should dismiss her criticisms of the US.

  9. there’s also the fact that france like germany and Russia, had not only provided the share of the armaments to Iraq, (ht sepri) but they reaped the benefits of the oil for bribes project,

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