7:30 AM. The students in my 9th grade Homeroom make their way to their desks. I've spent roughly three months with these students and they've made a lot of progress in that time. Sure, they still talk during the announcements, but they are no longer late. Now they sit in their assigned seats. Most stand for the Pledge of allegiance. Most. One does not- least wise, not on his own. when I ask, he will grudgingly stand up one line into the Pledge, then lazily collapse back into his desk one line early. If I turn away, he will collapse sooner. I'm aware that students do not have to say the Pledge, and they do not have to put their hands over their hearts. However, I do expect them to stand and be quiet. One student barely does this.
To be entirely fair, while the other students stand for the Pledge, they don't take it seriously. They stand out of habit. They are quiet because it's expected. They glance and smirk at each other, giggle to each other, and lean on their desks during the Pledge. This one student who grudgingly stands and lazily collapses back into his desk is simply the most blatant of all the students in his apparent apathy towards the Pledge.
It is a scene from the classic Red Skeleton skit.
When I was a student, we stood for the Pledge. We didn't have to say it, and we didn't have to put our hands over our hearts. Most of us did anyway. That was less than a decade ago. 9/11 happened when I was in high school. I remember the surge of patriotism that defined us as a country and united all of us during the following weeks and months. Patriotism was a part of our high school years. Oh, there were students who disagreed with our government. They disagreed with foreign and domestic policies. They thought there was too much nationalism, etc. Despite those disagreements and reservations though, they could still find reasons to believe in America. They still respected the concept of America and, to me, remained patriotic in that regard.
The Pledge isn't about agreeing with the American government or respecting government officials. It's about believing in the promise of America. A promise that includes the right to disagree with the government. A promise that enables people to work together to reform the government. A promise that no matter how bad things get, they can get better. That's pretty respectable.
Patriotism may not be something that you can teach in a classroom. It is not something that can be indoctrinated into students. In order to be genuine and sincere, students must develop a sense of it on their own. Annual remembrances like Memorial Day however, provide a perfect teachable moment for fostering a sense of patriotism. It is an opportune time to reflect on and find the meaning in the things we say and do every day. If I had to make a lesson plan for the 15 minute Homeroom period, every year the day before Memorial day would have the same plan... listen to the Pledge of Allegiance- performed by Red Skeleton.