Guam kids to study U.S. military ahead of Marines move to island
July 5, 2006
HAGATNA, Guam — The public school system here plans to incorporate lessons about U.S. military history, culture and society into their classrooms in the coming years, an initiative meant to prepare the island’s young people for the expected doubling of active-duty servicemembers here, according to a public school administrator.
The idea is to teach Guam’s future adults about the military — past and present — to help erase stereotypes, reduce apprehension and prevent conflicts as 8,000 U.S. Marines move here from Okinawa, said Nerissa Bretania-Shafer, the district’s administrator of research, planning and evaluation.
Specifically, the new lessons would help students better understand the role of the Marines, both internationally and on Guam.
“They need to be prepared with how to deal with change,” Bretania-Shafer said.
“We are going to look at our curriculum and see how we can complement it to [educate about] the military and give them more information about the armed forces and their dependents,” she said. “And we want them to learn about diffusing conflicts that may arise.”
Many locals have the impression Marines are moving here because they wore out their welcome in Okinawa, Bretania-Shafer said. While acknowledging instances of violent crimes, military officials have said the move is part of an overall Pentagon strategy in the Pacific.
Recent statistics from Okinawa officials show Marines there are proportionately less likely than local residents to be arrested. Still, local headlines and prosecutions of a few brutal crimes have resonated across the sea to Guam.
“That can create fear and confrontations,” Bretania-Shafer said. “We need to balance that, expose them to the training that Marines get, what they have done for Guam.” The Marine Corps during World War II liberated the island from an entrenched Japanese force in July 1944.
A spokesman for the military school system said officials there were supportive of the plans.
“We applaud any efforts to increase the knowledge of all students, especially when they can learn more about their own history, cultural diversity and the geographical significance of their home,” Charles Steitz, a spokesman for the Department of Defense Education Activity’s Pacific office, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.
The idea is in the beginning stages. But Bretania-Shafer said she hopes to have pilot lesson plans in various grades next school year.
Guam’s 31,000 students already get some exposure to military personnel, families and lifestyle, she said. Students play each other in sports, military representatives participate in career days and some Navy and Air Force members “adopt” the 37 schools across the island to help with minor repairs and cleanup days, she said.
The initiative will cost money, at least for printing materials and teacher stipends to develop the curriculum, she said. That will prove a challenge to the district’s proposed $200 million budget, which Guam’s legislature has yet to approve. This year, the district spent far more than the $160 million budgeted, and it has struggled in recent weeks to meet its payroll and pay utility bills.