Monthly Archives: March 2010

we didn’t start the war (the song)

I didn’t have the typical high school experience. When I skipped class, it was to finish an assignment. When I got drunk with my friends, we sang Hebrew songs. And when I pulled an all-nighter, it was to study.  My friend Michelle and I used to study for all our tests together. The night before a test was the only night when our parents made an exception to the no sleepovers on school nights rule. In our sweatpants with floppy buns on our head and a huge bowl of something sweet or salty close by, we’d quiz each other on history or quote Talmudic scholars, taking breaks to gossip about boys or visit the kitchen.

At some point, colour-coding notes and creating mnemonic devices gave way to bouts of hysterical giggling. Around 2 in the morning, the Persons Case became positively hilarious and the periodic table started to look like a haiku.  These breakdowns came with increasing frequency, telling us we weren’t going to retain any more useful information. With our parents long asleep, we’d finally turn in for the night, vocabulary words dancing ’round our heads.

On one of these study all-nighters, Michelle and I studied for a grade 9 History test. The subject: the lead-up to World War II. We decided, as usual, to write a song to help us remember the names and dates. The song worked – we both got 9o-something on the test, and I still remember most of it 15 years later. Now I’m teaching WWII to my Grade 10s, and I want to pass the song on to them. The only problem…I forget the last line! Any suggestions?

Here it is, to the tune of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire.

Versailles Treaty starts it all

Bavarian beer-hall

Reparation costs were huge

Hitler blamed things on the Jews

Nazi Party ’19

Mein Kampf ’23

Hitler’s Chancellor ’32

In ’34 he’s Fuhrer too


We didn’t start the war

Neville Chamberlain appeased him

But Sudetenland didn’t please him

We didn’t start the war

Anschluss was unification

Czechoslovakia was taken

Munich in ’38

To decide the Czechs’ fate

Nazi-Stalin ’39

Hitler Says “Poland’s mine”

Germany declares war

Peace in Europe was no more

(Here’s the line that I forget)

This is what we’re fighting for!

And here’s the video, just for fun…

Have any musical mnemonics to share? Please post them in the comments!


march break

That is all.

TDSB condemns Israeli Apartheid Week

The Toronto District School board has released an official statement condemning Israeli Apartheid Week. Last week, trustees Josh Matlow (St. Paul’s) and James Pasternak (York Centre) requested that the Director of the Canada’s largest school board take a clear stand against IAW activities in TDSB schools, arguing that his request was in line with TDSB’s equity policy.

Today Chris Spence, TDSB’s Director of Education, released the following response:

“Our educational goal includes the building of understanding, trust and co-operation among groups and individuals in the TDSB. The event called “Israeli Apartheid Week” has the effect of fostering ill-will and disharmony among groups and individuals. The Government of Ontario and the opposition parties have unanimously adopted a resolution condemning “Israeli Apartheid Week”. The Toronto District School Board therefore affirms that “Israeli Apartheid Week” and its activities are not permitted to take place on school or Board property, or as part of any activity under the jurisdiction of the TDSB.”

Let’s promote peace and dialogue in Toronto schools instead. This way, when students graduate and move on to the university and college campuses where IAW gains momentum year after year, they might not be so quick to blindly choose sides and condemn Israel simply because it’s the cool thing for budding leftists to do.