Veterans Day is a teachable moment for many US schools
Schools are mostly finding noncontroversial ways to bring Veterans Day into the classroom. For some students, this is the first time they've ever met a vet.
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Around the country, many schools are using the day as an opportunity not only to honor veterans, but also to help students better understand current events and the military.
For the first time in three decades, South Dakota's Meade School District chose not to give students a holiday on Veterans Day in order to have a more meaningful observance. At one high school in the district, an all-school assembly Wednesday is being followed by small group discussions with past and present service members.
An Alabama high school class is creating a "living history" documentary, interviewing and recording local veterans.
"I think you can do more in school [to commemorate Veterans Day], and taking the day off is almost a cop-out. They go to the malls," says Ronald Stewart, headmaster at York Prep in Manhattan, explaining why he chooses, like the Meade School District, to hold classes on Veterans Day.
At York Prep, students stand for the traditional moment of silence at 11 a.m. on Veterans Day – something Mr. Stewart guesses they would not do if it had the day off.
Still, Stewart says that even with the current conflicts, it can be a challenge to bring Veterans Day immediacy to students who are unlikely to know anyone who serves.
"For this group, there is a disconnect with the military," he says. "The news of the latest disasters from the front takes a small place in their attention span."
That's less of a challenge for schools where many students' family members are currently deployed, and the conflicts – and the service members who fight in them – are more of a reality.