Next week, the country will celebrate Independence Day. The day is usually filled with lots of red, white and blue shirts, small waving flags and spectacular fireworks, but is the meaning of the day still known and appreciated?
A study by the American National Election Studies showed that the level of patriotism in the United States has in fact gone down, most commonly in millennials. Some believe this trend is because of social institutions, however, others believe the decline in American patriotism is because of our education system.
Debbie Loukotka, an elementary school teacher who is known for taking her American pride seriously, says that teaching patriotism is more by choice.
“It really depends on the feelings of the teacher, it’s not really pushed or mandated,” she said.
For a while, Loukotka explained, the U.S. government had struggled with coming up with an agreement on a curriculum for history and social studies, whereas curriculums in other subjects like mathematics or science were easily agreed on and mandated.
She said that she sees this as a potential problem in our nation because we are not adequately teaching our children about the history of our nation so that they can become engaged citizens.
“I guess I look at it as, I can only focus on what I have control over; and I’ll be darn straight that every one of my kids that comes through my classroom will have an understanding” Loukotka said.
Social studies teacher NeCole Royston also feels the same way about teaching patriotism in schools. She said that she thinks most students do learn about patriotism, like saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, but instead of really understanding the meaning of it, it just becomes a part of their routine.
“I like it when the pledge and the Declaration of Independence are broken down so kids can understand,” Royston said. “It’s hard for them to understand when they didn’t live through how we became free.”
Farley Hill Elementary School Principal Yvonne Taylor said that understanding as well as practicing the nation’s values are an important part of school culture. She said that her students practice singing patriotic songs like the national anthem and “America the Beautiful.”
In class, the teachers support lessons on the Core Democratic Values, which includes patriotism.
“Our music classes sing the national anthem without any voice support, so the kids actually know the words and what they mean, which they practice every day,” Taylor said.
Loukotka added, our education system is sometimes not enough for our kids to understand patriotism. During the Fourth of July, she said, most people get caught up in the act of celebrating and forget the true meaning of the holiday.
Loukotka suggests that the best way to show your kids what patriotism is this Fourth of July is to take them to a parade and have a conversation about it.
“Kids will have more meaning in seeing who the individuals are in the parades,” Loukotka said. “Many times, kids will ask their parents, ‘well why do we stand up?’ And that’s the learning experience.”