February 1 became “Churchill Day” at the Lycée Jeanne d’Arc in the city of Tarbes, reports Gérard Crozat, an English teacher at the Roman Catholic school in Southern France. “We welcome all occasions to encourage our students to understand the importance of modern languages,” said Olivier Hautier, the school’s headmaster. That is why the teachers in the English department decided to organise a “Churchill Day” when the film Darkest Hour was released.
“To organise the event, we began by getting in touch with specialists,” explained Crozat. “Thus we reached out to the International Churchill Society, which put us in contact with Antoine Capet, a former Professor of British Studies at the University of Rouen and French specialist on Winston Churchill. Prof. Capet immediately agreed to visit with our students, and our project was launched.”
On the morning of the 1st, all the sixth formers watched the film Darkest Hour in English. In the afternoon, the students attended a lecture by Prof. Capet and learned about both Sir Winston Churchill’s personality and his role as Prime Minister during the Second World War. From this the students realised that Churchill was more than an outstanding personality; he was also a character!
Most of the students, aged seventeen, did not know much about Churchill apart from what they had learned in class, that is to say some quotes and some historic facts of a politician belonging to the past. As a result of the day-long seminar, however, the students realized that Churchill was a good and relevant illustration from modern history of the notion of Myths and Heroes that they are required to study before their final exam in June.
Prof. Capet spoke with such passion that the students discovered another dimension to history and modern languages. Additionally, those students studying literature had an extra hour with Prof. Capet in English during which they analyzed one of Churchill’s speeches.
A fine meal with Prof. Capet and some of the teachers ended the day well. “We all learned something and found in our guest the same passion which we recognize in ourselves,” said Crozat. “From this great day with so many discoveries, we learned two important lessons: the past cannot be forgotten if we care about the future, and great men’s speeches are not mere words but a legacy.”