- The following is a letter to the editor from Geneva resident Andrea Cladis.
In response to the recent news surrounding stipulations of student recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at Mill Creek Elementary School in Geneva, I just have one question, “What is so wrong about teaching our children to respect the country they live in and to pay tribute to those who have sacrificed and fought earnestly for our liberties?”
As a college graduate who is near completion of post-graduate studies in education leading to the acquisition of licensure in English and French, I have spent the past two years teaching and observing at several schools in the Western suburbs. From what I have witnessed as far as disdain for the pledge and complete disregard for patriotism and American values in numerous local schools, I firmly believe in and support the sentiments projected by Colin M. McGroarty in his letter of concern to Mill Creek Elementary School.
While I do believe that the headline for this particular story was misleading on the Geneva Patch, since Colin M. McGroarty was merely citing that he “would shed blood again” to defend the liberties of this county and not actually threatening “blood” in the sense of school violence, I do give credit to the Geneva Patch for posting the complete story including the original letter from McGroarty as well as the school’s response to the concerns of this particular community member.
While I may disagree with McGroarty that fascism is being promoted in our schools, I do agree that the unifying belief in American values and exceptionalism is being denigrated on a routine basis. A few of more common occurrences that I have seen and experienced in over 20 local schools (which will remain anonymous for confidentiality purposes) including elementary, middle and high schools that I believe are actively promoting deleterious attitudes toward American values include the following:
- Some schools have completely eliminated the recitation of the pledge.
- Students have the option to either sit or stand to say the pledge — and the majority of students remain seated.
- The phrase, “Under God” has been removed in many districts as well as “with liberty and justice for all.”
- Students do not have to put their hands on their hearts while saying the pledge.
- The majority of classrooms no longer have an American flag hanging in them.
- Some schools view our country’s flag as a mere symbol that does not hold any real meaning for America — students might use one for pieces of an art project or a rug on the floor of a classroom.
- In certain social studies classes I have observed, discussions and lessons about patriotism, freedom and the founding document of our country, the Constitution, are broadly overlooked or portrayed in a negative manner.
- In one particular school, instead of saying the Pledge of Allegiance, students say the “Green Pledge” every afternoon: “I pledge allegiance to the Earth … ”
As a person who has relatives who were involved in our country’s wars and as a student who grew up saying the pledge every single day at school and thanking both veterans and God for the mere privilege to live in a free society where I could go to school and learn every day, it is incredibly disheartening to see that schools — places that were originally designed to teach citizenship and moral values have neglected or even eliminated the important task of educating young people about what it means to be an American.
Is it true that as a collective society we have abandoned the American spirit? Have we lost our sense of nationalism? Have we forgotten what it means to “stand united” or to stand proudly for our country?
A close family friend of mine, Michael Stedman, comes from a military family and has served three lengthy tours overseas in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He will be heading back next month to continue his service to our country. When speaking with him about classrooms without flags, students who make inappropriate gestures at the American flag and those students who remain slouched in their chairs during the Pledge of Allegiance he affirmatively said to me, “I stand up for this country because I believe in America, I believe in opportunity and I believe in the preservation of liberty for the next generation. I know soldiers who have fought and lost their lives or lost their limbs. Those soldiers are no longer able to physically stand up for America. Don’t you think that in the very least young Americans for whom we fight would have the decency to stand up in gratitude, in thanks, in support of their country? They should stand up for those who can’t and be eternally grateful for the blessing of living in America.”
I do not think that I could have conveyed this issue in a more powerful manner than Mr. Stedman. Our children are not entitled to freedom and they should certainly not find entitlement in apathy toward the very country in which they live. Our freedoms are based on a very simple document that a handful of brave people created over 200 years ago to fight against big government and taxation. This document, the U.S. Constitution, set our country’s founding principles of limited government, free markets and personal responsibility. The Constitution gave every single American an equal chance to pursue happiness and champion a limited government that would protect them from enemies and respect their individual rights such as free speech and the right to bear arms so as to be the last line of defense against a future tyrannical government such as the one they just broken away from in England.
As Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
I believe that as a nation we must preserve freedom for our children and in so doing, we have an obligation to teach them well. In our homes, our churches, our communities, and schools, we must make it an absolute priority to teach our children to value and cherish the liberty that has been so graciously gifted to them. After all, it is not until we can actually identify and recognize a right that we realize just how very fragile it truly is.