Why Study Patriotism?

In my 14 years of teaching I've noticed that many children do not show respect for their country the way they did in my day. Nowadays, it seems that only teachers of primary-aged students recite the Pledge every day. When I taught 5th grade, it was like pulling teeth to get students to participate. They saw it as silly, uncool. They viewed Veterans Day and Memorial Day as days off rather than days of honor and reflection.
One might conclude that this is a nationwide trend: the older students get - the less interested they are in patriotism. Are students less interested today or do they lack an understanding of what our flag, pledge and anthem represent?
I choose the latter explanation. I'm a flag-waving patriotic citizen because of what I have been taught and what my parents modeled. As a child I did not understand the meaning of patriotic songs or the history behind the flag. But I did understand how to respect the flag. As a child of immigrants, I learned early on what it meant to be an American. Every day our flag flew on our front lawn. During the hostage crisis and the Gulf War, my parents respectfully tied yellow ribbons around trees. Our Christmas tree was decorated with streamers of both Norwegian and American flags! I knew what Veterans Day and Memorial Day meant.
When My Country 'Tis of Thee received a Service Learning grant, I decided to create a project that shows how to immerse kindergartners in patriotic activities. I don't want them to simply recite the Pledge of Allegiance (and no, it is not and to the republic for Richard Sands….) I want them to experience its meaning! In doing so, they will come to understand the importance of our flag, our pledge, the national anthem and the men and women who have fought for our freedoms.


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