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Skelton: History Important to Students' Growth, Understanding

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2002 – Quoting ancient politician and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton told attendees at the fourth-annual conference of the Military Child Education Coalition that "gratitude is the greatest of all virtues."

Shelton was the final keynote speaker for the conference, which ran from July 31 to Aug. 2. More than 350 principals, teachers, counselors, administrators, service members and parents attended the conclave. They were seeking ways to make life easier for transitioning military children and their parents.

"You play an important part in helping these children transition, learn and grow," Skelton said in expressing his gratitude for MCEC's work in helping military children succeed in school. "What young people learn in school is invaluable, and you help foster and improve the learning environments for military children."

The Congressman noted the theme for this year's conference was "Creating a Legacy for Children." He said before a new legacy can be created, children have to understand history.

"History is integral to the values promoted by this society," Skelton said. "But it's something that has fallen by the wayside in many children's lives."

According to the 2001 National Assessment of Education Progress, 57 percent of the nation's high school seniors lack a basic knowledge of U.S. history, 32 percent performed at the basic level, 10 percent at grade-level work and only 1 percent were deemed advanced, Skelton said. Likewise, only about two-thirds of 4th and 8th graders showed a basic understanding of U.S. history, and fewer than one in five students in each grade were deemed proficient.

Skelton said history is important because it's all around us and we use it everyday. "Every decision we make, every observation we have is consciously or subconsciously measured against our own experience, our personal history," he noted.

Doctors, lawyers, judges, and Congressmen use history in everyday decision-making, Skelton said.

If he were talking to a bunch of schoolchildren about the importance of learning history, Shelton said, he would give them a shortened version of today's speech. He said he would tell them "that it's interesting, tells them about their roots, and helps them make decisions for their future."

MCEC's work on behalf of military-connected children "is a very important facet of the education picture we look at" when the House Armed Services Committee is considering appropriations for the Department of Defense Education Activity, Skelton said. "The Department of Defense schools are so terribly important," he noted.

The unique nature of military families moving from place to place, post to post, and base to base make it impossible to get basic roots, whether it be in education or otherwise, he said. The Military Child Education Coalition "helps in the transition, the learning process and (ensures) the children are not left out," Skelton said.

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