Dear School Principal: Why Are You Against Veterans Day?


Why would school principals object to asking students to mark Veterans Day? After all, it is an official federal holiday created to honor U.S. military veterans who have served this country, sometimes dying for this country.

Is it too much to ask students with a parent or sibling in uniform to bring in a photo? Is it too much to ask a vet to visit the classroom or for students to write a letter? Some people think so.

Is Noting Veterans Day Too Much to Ask?

Ron Astor, a professor at the University of Southern California School of Social Work, was shocked this year when he got pushback against marking Veterans Day from civilian principals in the Los Angeles area.

Every year, Astor asked his graduate students who are serving internships in schools to find a way to mark Veterans Day. The USC School of Social Work has done some excellent work centered on military children in schools over the past several years. Their research has shown that creating the kind of public school environment in which educators are sensitive to military students' needs and circumstances can help to increase resiliency among military children.

That resiliency is something we all swear that we want for military kids. And the celebrations at various schools have been met with warmth over the past few years. So what's the big deal now?

Veterans Day a Problem for Some Civilian Principals

In his essay in the Huffington Post, Astor found that suddenly it was a big deal. Principals complained to him that this would take time away from "academic learning." Others said that Veterans Day wasn't a big deal at their school since they didn't have a large military population -- even though the research shows that one of the problems with military kids is that they become invisible in schools. Astor wrote: "One principal was seriously concerned that we were violating the confidentiality of families by asking them for photos of family members or by inviting veterans to speak at school -- as if being a military or veteran family is a clinical, psychological or medical condition.

Is This the Reaction Our Veterans Can Expect from Schools in Years to Come?

In the past 13 years of war, the country has been glad to salute the military, glad to contribute to nonprofits, glad to host a pancake breakfast to benefit wounded warriors or hoist a flag on July 4.

But now we are entering a time when the last Marine combat unit has left Afghanistan and the remaining troops scramble to get all their equipment home by the December 31 deadline. Yet, even now as we are sending troops out to deal with Ebola and Navy ships continue on their round of deployments, the urgency to recognize the military and the contribution of our veterans fades.

In some ways, I'm sure that is how it should be -- the natural ebb and flow of human interest.

Yet isn't that why we have a Veterans Day, so that even in the busyness of a year, we take a day to mark the service of all those who wore a uniform to protect the rest of us?

It is one day. It is 15 minutes in homeroom to ask whether any students have a family member in uniform. It is a 30-second note of how many people in our state currently serve and how that affects the economy. It is a math problem that invokes the budget of the Defense Department. It is a moment in a history, geography or social studies class to notice the sacrifices made and the historical gains created by those who served.

It is one day, School Principal. Veterans Day is Nov. 11. And, really, it is not too much to ask.

Photo of Navy veteran Bud Cloud by Jennie Haskamp.

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