The Vietnam War, unlike the Korean War, has little chance of ever being called "the forgotten war."
State Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante want to make sure that future generations of California students will be taught about the war and the Americans who fought it, fought against it, or simply just lived through that tumultuous time.
Machado and Bustamante were joined by some 40 Vietnam veterans and school representatives at the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Sacramento on Wednesday to unveil a plan to incorporate the study of the Vietnam War into the curriculum of every middle school in the state.
"It went very well," said Phil Garcia, a spokesman for Bustamante.
"The lieutenant governor detailed the release of the curriculum and called on California's middle school teachers to take a good look at the curriculum and use
it as a supplement to what they're already teaching," Garcia said.
Entitled, "Echoes From the Wall: History, Learning and Leadership Through the Lens of the Vietnam War Era," it is given away free of charge to the schools by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the nonprofit organization that built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Memorial - known simply as "The Wall" - was dedicated on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11, 1982.
The educational resource - which includes essays about the war, a combat chronology from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a movie about building the wall - was first sent to 27,000 high schools throughout the country in October 1999. More than 12,000 of the kits were distributed to middle schools last month.
"The curriculum is there to teach the younger generation not just about the Vietnam War, but about the cultural impact had on everyone who was back in the United States during that time and what was going on over there," said Kristi Stauffacher, Machado's legislative director.
"This is something the (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) Fund wanted to do because a lot of people they've noticed who visit the wall were born after the soldiers came home. They don't fully understand what happened."
Lodi Unified School District Trustee Bob Weaver, who favors the proposal, said he inspects every history or social science book the board is asked to approve. "Most of them have been very, very lacking," he said.
Weaver, who is a Vietnam veteran, said students need to be educated about the social repercussions of the war.
"That's one of the more turbulent times in the history of our country. A lot of the younger generations are not even aware of what happened in Vietnam," he said, adding that he'd be interested in giving lectures to students about his war experience.
Current statewide social studies standards for middle school students already encompass a great deal of information, according to Angelique Jacques-Marcoulis, Lodi Unified School District's coordinator of social science.
For example, in seventh grade students study 1,000 years of world history and geography including Medieval and early modern times, while eighth-graders study U.S. history from the Constitution to World War I.
"If they're going to incorporate the Vietnam War into new curriculum, it would probably be best suited for eighth grade because there is an emphasis on war and its effects (on the state)," Jacques-Marcoulis said.
The district is still in the process of updating statewide standards for the course of study relative to eighth grade, she said.
Middle schools aside, high school students fail to learn about the Vietnam War, as well, according to Weaver.
If high school teachers run out of time in the spring, they fail to fit in teaching the Vietnam War, he added. "It's mentioned, but there's no real details about it."
Machado and Cruz were joined at the Sacramento memorial by Assemblyman Ed Chavez, D-La Puente, and Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
Representatives from local veteran organizations, the California Teachers Association, the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrations also attended the event.
Machado was obliged to be part of the Wednesday's announcement, Stauffacher said. "He is a Vietnam veteran himself, so they asked and he was more than happy to do so."
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