Leaving World War II Behind — An Online Course

This course was held October 5 – November 15, 2020, and will be again in the future.

Course fee: $100 (Pay less if you have to, more if you can — the additional amount being a donation to World BEYOND War.) There will be a limit of 140 tickets sold for this course.

This course is 100% online and interactions are not live or scheduled, so you can take part whenever works for you.

Everyone registered for the course will receive PDF, ePub, and mobi (kindle) versions of David Swanson’s new book Leaving World War II Behind, which will provide additional reading to those who want to go beyond the written, video, and graphic materials provided in the course.

The purpose of the course is to inform the participant and enable them to inform others of why World War II is not a good justification for military spending and war planning, both because WWII happened in a very different world from today’s, and because common beliefs about the nature of and justifications for WWII are false. By debunking myths about WWII having been necessary, justifiable, and beneficial, we can strengthen arguments for moving to a world beyond war.

The course will explore why WWII was not fought to rescue anyone from persecution, was not necessary for defense, was the most damaging and destructive event yet to occur, and could have been prevented by avoiding any of several bad decisions.


This six-week online course will enable participants to:

  • explore questions about WWII as they ask, “What does WWII have to do with military spending?”;
  • produce their own pitch to explain how and why WWII did not have to happen, and test their ideas against the critical feedback of others on the course;
  • investigate ideas about why the U.S. (and other major allies) participation in WWII was not justifiable, focusing especially on how the U.S., Britain, and allies did not have to prioritize opposing the Soviet Union, develop and promote the dangerous bunk science of eugenics, develop the practice of racist segregation, develop practices of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and concentration of people on reservations, fund and arm the Nazis, and engage in an arms race with Japan.
  • develop an action plan for how to bring their learning back to their own context, in a way that influences their own practice and the learning and practice of others.


By the end of the course, therefore, participants will be able to:

  • explain their understanding of the relationships between WWII and military spending today;
  • present their case for why they think WWII did not have to happen;
  • produce an argument for why WWII was neither justifiable nor beneficial;
  • explain how they can support their claims with evidence;
  • know how to use their learning from this course in the development of war abolition work in their own contexts.

Framework and outline for the course

A facilitated online learning experience led by World BEYOND War experts, Leaving WWII Behind is based upon the book by the same. The modules of the course are organised around the books chapters. The course is designed as a resource to help the book come alive. It provides an interactive space for participants to go deeper into and implement ideas contained in the book. Toward that end, each week of the course represents a step along in the process of supporting participants to understand and be able to make their own case for why they think WWII should be left behind.

Course Outline

Week 1: WWII and it’s Legacy (Oct 5-11) – Host/Facilitator: John Reuwer

  • What WWII has to do with military spending
  • WWII did not have to happen

Week 2: WWII and Death Camps (Oct 12-18) Host/Facilitator: Katarzyna A. Przybyła

  • WWII was not fought to save anyone from death camps

Week 3: The Role of the U.S and Allies (Oct 19-25) Host/Facilitator: Charlotte Dennett

  • The United States did not have to prioritize opposing the Soviet Union
  • The United States did not have to develop and promote the dangerous bunk science of eugenics
  • The United States did not have to develop the practice of racist segregation
  • The United States did not have to develop practices of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and concentration of people on reservations
  • The United States did not have to fund and arm the Nazis

Week 4: The U.S and Japan, an Unnecessary Arms Race (Oct 26-Nov 1) Host/Facilitator: Susi Snyder

  • The United States did not have to engage in an arms race with Japan
  • WWII does not prove that violence is needed for defense

Week 5: The Impact and Myths of WWII (Nov 2-8) Host/Facilitator: Barry Sweeney

  • WWII was the worst thing humanity has done to itself and the earth in any short period of time
  • WWII in western culture is a dangerous set of myths

Week 6: Putting it all together (Nov 9-15) Host/Facilitator: Hakim Young

  • The world has changed: Hitler is not coming to get us
  • WWII and the case for war abolition
  • A call to action

This course is 100% online and interactions are not live or scheduled, so you can take part whenever works for you. Weekly content includes a mix of text, images, video, and audio. Instructors and students utilize online discussion forums to go over each week’s content, as well as to provide feedback on optional assignment submissions.

The course also includes three 1-hour optional zoom calls which are designed to facilitate a more interactive and real-time learning experience.

Time commitment/expectations: How much time you spend and how deeply you engage is up to you. At a minimum, you can expect to spend between 1-2 hours a week if you only review the weekly content (text and videos). We hope, however, you’ll want to engage in the online dialogue with peers and experts. This is where the real richness of the learning occurs, where we have the opportunity to explore new ideas, strategies, and visions for building a more peaceful world. Depending on your level of engagement with the online discussion you can expect to add another 1-3 hours a week. Finally, all participants are encouraged to complete optional assignments (required to earn a certificate). This is an opportunity to deepen and apply the ideas explored each week to practical possibilities. Expect another 2 hours a week if you pursue these options.

Accessing the course. Prior to the start date, you will be sent instructions for how to access the course, which will be taught through a program called Canvas.

Earn a certificate. To earn a certificate, participants must also complete optional weekly written assignments. Instructors will return the assignment to the student with detailed feedback. Submissions and feedback can be shared with everyone taking the course or kept private between a student and the instructor, at the student’s choice. Submissions must be completed by the conclusion of the course.

The cost of the course is the same for someone completing all, some, or none of the assignments.

Questions? Contact: phill@worldbeyondwar.org

To register by check, 1. Email Phill and tell him. 2. Make the check out to World BEYOND War and send it to World BEYOND War 513 E Main St #1484 Charlottesville VA 22902 USA.

Registrations are not refundable.

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