BUCKHANNON – At long last, a local veterans’ group has been recognized on the national level for its efforts to push for patriotism to be incorporated into the West Virginia secondary schools’ curriculum.
American Legion Post 7 Adjutant Mary Albaugh – also a Buckhannon city councilwoman – leapt with joy one evening several weeks ago when she arrived home, checked her mail and found the latest edition of “The American Legion Dispatch,” the American Legion headquarters’ official publication.
An article titled, “West Virginia post gets patriotism taught in public schools statewide,” jumped out at her, and instantly she knew it was referring to Post 7’s efforts to lobby for patriotism and Americanism to be integrated into the secondary schools’ curriculum.
“I was so excited, I nearly had a heart attack,” Albaugh said, with a smile.
The article explains Post 7 originally wrote a resolution in 2008 asking the West Virginia Legislature to pass legislation requiring the state Board of Education to mandate that a class on patriotism be taught in all public secondary schools, kindergarten through 12th grade.
Although the legislature never passed a law regarding the issue, the resolution was passed in 2010, and beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, high school students were required to take and pass a patriotism test. In addition, patriotism is to be incorporated in civics and social studies classes in grades K-12, although what’s taught – and how it’s taught – differs according to age level.
For instance, while some students might simply create patriotic art to celebrate Veterans Day, others are taught proper flag etiquette.
Albaugh said she, Bob Post and some American Legion Post 7 members who have passed away – such as Les Shreve and Morgan Perry – worked hard behind the scenes to pass the resolution.
“It was really time-consuming with all these meetings … and a lot of letter-writing, and a lot of copying, but [Bob Post, Morgan Perry, Les Shreve and others] planted that seed in me, too, and that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Albaugh said. “This is awesome for a little bitty post that planted a seed, and it grew, and now I’ve got a letter from a post out in Texas, and they want what we did. They want our resolution, so now they won’t have to do all of the homework.”
The Texas post saw the article in The American Legion Dispatch and immediately contacted Albaugh, she said.
To have their diligence recognized in the American Legion’s national publication was extremely rewarding and validating for Albaugh and others, she said, mentioning Post, Shreve and Perry.
“I’ve got a couple people upstairs (in heaven) that’s just smiling,” Albaugh said, smiling herself.
Albaugh said her own granddaughter seems to enjoy learning about the United States.
“My granddaughter’s in first grade. She loves it. She’s constantly doing something patriotic about America, about the flag,” Albaugh said. “They have a school calendar, and all year round, there’s something, where they can celebrate – whether it be President’s Day or Memorial Day or Veterans Day – so it’s not just Fourth of July anymore. It’s not just the anniversary of these old wars we’ve lived and survived through, but they’re teaching those as part of the history.
Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said although the patriotism test for high schoolers was new as of the 2013-2014 school year, the school system has always attempted to incorporate patriotism in the classroom.
“We have always included patriotism in the classroom,” she said. “Civics is a required course for every student in our county (this is a senior requirement). Every school in Upshur County does a program for the veterans on Veterans Day.
“We also do the flag education. The Lions Club does that near Flag Day. We have that in all of our elementary schools. Our social studies curriculum includes that, too.”
However, Stankus said it seems residents and students are more mindful of patriotism as of late.
Mostly recently, Upshur County Schools made the move to extend free admission to all county school extracurricular sporting events.
“Conversations with the board is where that idea came from,” Stankus said. “We wanted to recognize that group of people who have made those sacrifices for our entire community. It is another way to recognize them and thank them and honor them.”
Buckhannon-Upshur High School Principal Eddie Vincent said the school is starting a military club this year, which will funnel students into the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps light curriculum.
The local military recruiters will be helping with that and providing the curriculum, Vincent said.
“We could not get an ROTC program… so, this is the new way of introducing it to the students,” Vincent said.
The article applauding American Legion Post 7’s efforts appears in the January 2019 edition of “The American Legion Dispatch.”