My Spring semester sociology class "Contemporary American Society" has finished. One assignment was definitely "out there." I asked them to go to a cemetery that had a large military section. It was fine that they go with other students, but once in the military section they needed to walk among the graves for 30 minutes by themselves. I asked them to look at the names and ages of those buried there. I asked them to reflect on how this experience might nuance how they see American society today.
I was often moved to tears as I read their papers. For most, it was their first visit to a cemetery, ever. And for all, it was a deeply moving, emotional experience. It had never "hit them" that people there age...people who had a world inside their heads, people who had dreams and plans, JUST LIKE THEY DO NOW, actually gave up their lives for THEM. The wrote, some with great passion, and even remorse, how little they valued freedom until that moment.
Almost every student confessed skepticism about the assignment when they saw it in the syllabus, yet almost every student was effusive in their gratitude for requiring them to do it.