Patriotism should be required in schools
Patriotism should be taught in American schools. America is known as the country of "milk and honey," a land full of opportunities. We have many people who immigrate to this country legally and many who do not. All come with a strong sense of ethnic identity and patriotism, all of them wanting to achieve the American Dream of being able to make a better life for themselves and their families. Socialization is part of the American initiation of learning about the White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant (WASP) cultural and social norms. For example, gender roles (e.g., man, woman), occupational roles and religious institutions and beliefs. Whether you learn about WASP culture in formal educational institutions (e.g., elementary schools, secondary schools) or citizenship classes, one has to be proficient in American history and culture to meet certain academic requirements to graduate from high school or become an American citizen. Citizenship classes require adults to be proficient in English, complete an oral interview, and pass a written test on U.S. history and state and federal government.
Why do some school districts feel obligated to push patriotism in their schools?
Patriotism is a feeling of pride for one's original home country. Many people identify with their country of origin in terms of language, music, religion, and gender roles. A country of origin is where people can identify with their true cultural roots and have an inherent connection with their ethnic heritage. According to Webster's online dictionary, nationalism is a feeling that people have of being loyal to and proud of their country often with the belief that it is better and more important than other countries (www.merriam.webster/dictionary/nationalsim). Going forward with those two definitions in this context, some districts feel compelled to teach patriotism because it shows respect to our nation's culture and history. Part of being a good citizen and patriot is understanding the rights that the U.S. Constitution grants its citizens and the protections that it affords them. In addition to that, a fundamental understanding of the history of the American flag and the things that the stars and stripes represent make school districts feel they have met their obligation of teaching American history along with citizenship education and democratic values. On the path to American citizenship, potential candidates for citizenship have to understand the inalienable rights enshrined in the Constitution and the behavioral expectations when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited or when the Star-Spangled Banner is sung.
What do you think is the best way to teach citizenship and democracy?
In primary and intermediate grades, I think the best way to teach citizenship and democracy is through character education programs. In my opinion, character education, citizenship, and democracy programs share similar objectives and learning outcomes. In the primary grades (Kindergarten through second grade), good character equates being a good citizen. For example, character programs and citizenship programs teach how to be responsible, respectful, fair and trustworthy.
In the upper elementary grades (e.g., sixth through eigth grade), citizenship and democracy classes should be centered around service learning programs and social emotional learning. I think that this strategy would promote and enhance conflict/resolution skills and lead to academic success. Youngsters in junior high tend to take away more from hands-on experiences in real-world contexts in order to understand to cause/effect relationships. For example, when young people volunteer for a soup kitchen at Christmas or pick up trash surrounding their neighborhood school, they realize at a human level how their actions and attitudes have an impact on the community. These are patriotic and genuine experiences in citizenship that will have a lasting impression on them.