Why Patriotism Should Be Taught to High School Students
The definition of patriotism simply means the love for country. We start school day, ceremony, even sporting events with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a moment of silence. Now as a teacher I do not force my students to recite the pledge, but I require two things that are non-negotiable: stand and remain quiet. If a class of 16 and 17 year olds cannot honor this simple request, then unfortunately it is going to become a disciplinary issue. Two examples to support patriotism education to high school students are to define patriotism and find a personal way to apply the concept. There is more to patriotism than a flag and a statue.
First, patriotism comes from a Greek word meaning “fatherland.” Each and every one of us is attached to physical geography. I have lived in Virginia 36 of my 40 years, and I consider Southeastern VA my home. The location is almost three hours from Washington DC, an hour from Richmond and minutes from the first permanent English settlement (Jamestown). I grew up running through Yorktown Battlefields, staring at the Emancipation Oak at Hampton University, and hanging out on DOG (Duke of Gloucester) Street near the College of William and Mary as a college student. I could not imagine living anywhere else but VA. Virginia is my home, and I cannot hide my pride! Virginia women are “Steel Magnolias” too!
A symbol of patriotism is simple: my daddy. Saying I love my country is simple when I can apply it to a personal experience. As a teacher, this is one of the skills I teach about patriotism. In my computer I keep a picture of my late father, dressed in his Class A uniform. It reminds me of many things. It was taken the year I was born-1970. Now Daddy was not Colin Powell or Benjamin O. Davis. He served the country 24 years, the same country who addressed him, an Army Sergeant, as “Boy.” He fought in Korea and Vietnam; Daddy even had to fight racial prejudices at home. Daddy was the master of breaking stereotypes. He spoke fluent Mandarin and Korean, grew up in Southwestern Virginia. Daddy passed away in November. I lost not only my father but my best friend and family historian. His life was so intertwined with late 20th century history that I became a history major and later teacher. He was a patriot, like the thousands and millions before, during, and after his lifetime.
Now, back to my high school classroom and the patriotism education. Each day, I recite the Pledge of Allegiance and perform the Sign of the Cross during the moment of silence. All I have asked from is to stand and remain silent. One day, almost every student in class was non-compliant. Mad would not describe the anger. I showed the picture of my father and shared the fact that people died for us to have freedom. He and others challenged and defended the country. People fought in wars to make our country safe to practice democracy. There are thousands of men and women serving in our Armed Forces. We have freedoms that others do not, the ones people dream and fight for in other lands. There will be children who give the ultimate sacrifice: a parent injured or killed during battle. I am hopeful and optimistic with thanks to the United States of America. Only in this country can we elect (and deselect) our leaders, practice religion without governmental intrusion, and peacefully assemble to show our dissatisfaction in a particular decision.
To recap, educate the importance of patriotism through words and personal examples. This is not about school-aged students but everyone. Each person has a story and an example to add with the “fatherland” concept. There is more to love about the United States than the flag and Lady Liberty. The United States is a nation of immigrants. Our symbols of patriotism are more than flags on the lawn and songs. Young people have a vested interest in our nation and are just as patriotic. It is up to us elders to show the way.