Getting children to think about a common past




When we think about conflict, our thoughts gravitate inevitably not only to the loss of life, but in equal measure to the predicament of children as innocent victims caught up in a reality that they do not understand, and sadly may come to regard as their allotted normality. 

There are as many questions here as there are ways of approaching these issues. How do young children conceptualize the raw experience of conflict? How can one talk with them about this multifaceted phenomenon that includes both heroism and brutality, without exposing them either to what they are unable to handle nor to an idea of human history as being primarily brutal? How, given that there are victors and losers, heroes and villains, does one present what we call the truth of the matter, without bias? 

One answer that perhaps covers most of these questions is: by a comprehensive and multifaceted approach that reveals the many faces of conflict and, moreover, by making available a broad and creative spectrum of responses that allows children to get a sense of history as a common past. 

Never Such Innocence gives children around the world a voice on conflict, offering opportunities for reflection through history and poetry, art, speech and song. A charity initially set up as a First World War commemoration project, Never Such Innocence has today expanded to include all forms of conflict up to the present day. The broad spectrum of fascinating and informative educational material, provided free at the charity’s site, is designed to inspire creative responses and allow young people to learn about the concepts of conflict and commemoration. 

An annual competition, open for free to young people aged 9-18 from any country in the world, invites them to create a poem, artwork, speech or song on something they feel strongly about locally or internationally, past or current. An anthology book, Never Such Innocence: Children’s Responses through Poetry, Art and Song and the album Songs of the Centenary features winning work by children marking the First World War centenary. 

The overarching aim of the charity is to build connections internationally and encourage young people to actively learn about their shared history and heritage.

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