Military Children

We’ve all seen the photo: A soldier in fatigues stoops down to hug his child one last time before heading off to a war zone.

We may have an idea of what comes next for the soldier. Rarely do we discuss what’s next for the child.

Nearly 2 million children have parents currently serving in the military, and that number doubles when you include the children of veterans post 9/11. They’ve had to say goodbye to their parents multiple times during what has been the largest sustained deployment in the history of our all-volunteer force. These young people live in every zip code of this country and on military bases across the globe. And yet their everyday lives are mostly invisible to the rest of us.

How are these children affected by their parents’ struggles to readjust to civilian life? What can we learn from their resiliency? And what is our duty to these children who sacrifice so much?


Model For Early Education

Forty percent of military children are under the age of five. Many of these children are cared for in child care centers on military bases across the U.S. and around the world. Thirty years ago, these centers were known as the “ghetto of American child care.” But in that has changed dramatically, with the military pouring resources into early childhood education so their parents can focus on their missions. The military’s child care centers are considered among the best in the nation, but advocates worry that progress is imperiled by budget cuts.

Department Of Defense Schools

The Department of Defense educates approximately 80,000 military children through its school system at bases across the globe. These schools are a source of pride for the military, boasting high levels of student achievement, dedicated parents and a stable workforce of veteran teachers. But in the past decade, several of these DoD schools have been closed and the future of those that remain is unclear.

Bridging The Cultural Divide

The majority of the nation’s military children are educated in traditional public schools. But these schools rarely track the number of military students they’re serving, and often have little understanding of the unique challenges these families may face, including frequent moves and prolonged deployments. Now, some public schools, particularly those close to bases, are working to identify military children and make sure their needs are being met.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Hundreds of thousands of American children saw their parents return home from Iraq and Afghanistan with a range of physical and mental disorders, including missing limbs, depression and PTSD. Approximately 5,000 have lost a parent or sibling on the battlefield and a growing number have to deal with a parent taking his own life. Coping with these losses can seem overwhelming to a young person, but special camps across the country are helping military children to grieve their parents’ deaths and eventually heal.

Breaking Ground’s Debut DocumentaryYesterday’s Dropouts

Every year more than one million students fail to graduate from high school on time. But we rarely explore what happens next. What are these students’ lives like 10, 20, even 40 years after they leave the classroom? Do they ever get a second chance?

‘Yesterday’s Dropouts’ is a documentary about the 30 million dropouts in the U.S. and the hundreds of thousands who return to the classroom every year as adults. It’s been years since these students dropped out of school, but the long shadow of their unfinished education still follows them every day.

Miss the broadcast? Listen to the documentary, segmented on each of the four Yesterday’s Dropouts article pages or listen to the one-hour documentary.To download this documentary, right-click on the play button and save the file to your mobile device.


An Unfinished Education

Approximately 30 million adults in the U.S. are at the low end of the literacy spectrum. They struggle to read a menu, a pay stub or a bus schedule. About 46 million find it challenging to do the most basic math. And for millions of adults, there’s the added challenge of not being able to speak English. Ana Perez, Shirley Ashley, and Ernest Robertson, like thousands of other adult learners, are slowly and painstakingly trying to fill in the gaps of their rudimentary schooling. It has been more than 40 years since they dropped out of school and the long shadow of their unfinished education still follows them every day.

America’s Largest High School

The GED test was created so that our military veterans whose education was interrupted by World War II could get a credential and go on to college. More than 18 million people have passed the test since it was introduced in 1942. But academic research finds the value of a GED credential is not even close to that of a high school diploma. Also, major changes coming to the test in 2014 make it more difficult, more expensive and will require adult students to have computer skills.

From Class to Career

The most common reason adults go back to school is to get a better job. In typical adult education programs this can take years; students usually have to finish basic courses, then take the GED test, followed by pre-college classes before they can get into college. If students need to learn English, it can take even longer. But a program used throughout Washington state, shortens that time by taking students, often high school drop outs, and placing them in college level courses. The program uses a combination of team teaching, internships and extra supports to quickly boost student skills and quickly get them into the workforce. The program has been so successful that more than 20 states are implementing some form of this model.

High Price for Low Literacy

Adults who go back to school often struggle to earn a diploma and hold a steady job. When they can’t read, write or speak English well, it affects whole communities in a variety of ways- the economy suffers and communities have to spend more on social services- including unemployment checks, food stamps and subsidized housing. Adults who dropped out of high school are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. They are less likely to vote and to volunteer and there is also a burden on the health care and the k-12 school systems. But perhaps the biggest cost is the one that can’t be measured. It’s the invisible cost of what-might-have-been, not being able to fulfill your personal potential.

WAMU 88.5 in Washington, D.C. is proud to produce Breaking Ground with Kavitha Cardoza, a documentary series dedicated to making the invisible visible. Hosted by Kavitha Cardoza, Breaking Ground focuses on specific issues that poor and disenfranchised Americans face, from illiteracy to homelessness to hunger.

Cardoza is a seasoned reporter with a refreshing approach. She believes in letting people tell their own stories, and considers her role as a host to further the conversation about poverty and other challenges in America and how we can each make a difference.

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