ALBUQUERQUE, NM – ABC Library‘s Special Collections Library is the venue for an upcoming exhibition, “Schooling with Uncle Sam,” focused on the history of the 181 schools for military dependents located in the U.S. and throughout the world. Less than one-third (58) of one of America’s largest school systems is located in the States; the rest are spread around the world, from the Far and Middle East to Western Europe.
The exhibit, developed by the Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center, will open on Saturday, July 11 in the Main Reading Room at the Special Collections Library at Edith and Central.
The public is invited to attend an special ceremony with a ribbon-cutting, honor guard, remarks and light refreshments on Thursday, July 16 at 5 p.m.
The massive educational system has its origins in military sponsorship of the education of the sons and daughters of the armed forces that began in the mid-19th century. Today’s sprawling system came out of post WWII when it was determined that morale would increase among Occupation soldiers if their families were with them, and that the living examples of American democracy would be influential in the defeated German and Japanese populations. Another factor in new policy was the concern over stationing the now racially integrated military in the still-segregated South.
Since 1946, when the Department of Defense opened schools for military dependents in Germany and Japan, an estimated 15 million American students have received their education/ on military installations in foreign lands. The average Department of Defense Education Agency (DODEA) student will attend four, five or even more different schools on the/ way to graduation. More than a quarter of them will enter first grade speaking a foreign language, and almost all of them will have lived in a foreign country by the time they reach the fourth grade.
With Albuquerque’s large population of active and retired military and veterans, the new exhibit will bring back memories for many area residents who themselves attended DODEA schools, or had children who attended them. The new exhibit will feature detailed information about the history and growth of the schools, anecdotes from students who attended them, and a host of artifacts that include: a 1948 report card; teachers’ guides; books on learning to speak, write and sing in the language of their new home; school flags and pennants; posters; school photos; yearbooks; athletic jackets and trophies; a high school diploma; a bison head that was worn by the varsity mascot at the Mannheim, Germany, high school; a statement from General Colin Powell, US Army, Ret.; and much more. Many of the artifacts in the exhibit are provided by the American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS), based in Wichita, Kansas.
Details about one military kid stationed in Germany who decided that if the University of Maryland could offer evening classes for soldiers, they could do it for “military Brats, too” (an affectionate appellation chosen by the “Brats” themselves). Claire Schwan, daughter of Colonel William A. Schwan, convinced Major General Thorson that it was needed, and soon there was a two-year undergraduate program with 18 students! During its 55-year existence, the two-year European campus of the University of Maryland served more than 22,000 student as the only residential college for children of U.S. military and State Department personnel.
Circle your calendars and don’t miss this engaging exhibit that will provide a lot of information on the lives of military dependents, a number of smiles, and will add to our knowledge about a life few of us have experienced. The constant moves and changes of school, teachers, friends and cultures-all without their express consent-makes for a very challenging, but rewarding life. The stories of how these students adapted and thrived should be an inspiration to us all.
The exhibit is presented by The Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center (MAMF), whose mission it is to collect and preserve the stories, experiences, documents, photos, and artifacts of the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, spouses, siblings, and others who have loved and supported a member of America’s military services from Revolutionary War times to modern times. MAMF is an all-volunteer not-for-profit online entity in quest of a permanent home in Albuquerque and is launching a capital campaign to support that quest.