America's students celebrate themes of pride and patriotism

Flags, songs, fund drives join Pledge of Allegiance

Terrorism Strikes America

The Nation

September 28, 2001|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

JONESBORO, Ga. - Until two weeks ago, the theme for today's homecoming celebration at Jonesboro High was "Old School," and each class had been asked to construct a float representing a different decade. After the events of Sept. 11, the Student Council changed the theme to "Pride and Patriotism," and students have cleaned local stores out of red, white and blue crepe paper.

At Batesville Middle School in Arkansas, fifth- and sixth-graders waved tiny American flags Monday and sang the country song "God Bless the USA" as a Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard raised a new American flag outside.

"The last two weeks are something we will never forget," Superintendent Ted Hall told the children, "and I want to tell you students that it's OK to love your country and love your flag. Sometimes it takes something like this to make us appreciate that."

As a surge of patriotism has washed over the country in the wake of the terrorist attacks, nowhere has the revival been more omnipresent than in schools. Hallways and classrooms have been decorated with bunting and posters of Uncle Sam. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for relief efforts through penny drives and bake sales. Blood drives have been held on campuses. Flags are showing up on clothing, book bags and lockers.

Lessons in geography, history and art have been amended to emphasize that freedom and democracy cannot be taken for granted. At James L. Day Middle School in Temecula, Calif., students were assigned to write an essay about what it means to be an American. In Columbia, Md., students at Wilde Lake High School were told to wear red, white and blue to this week's Patriotism Day assembly.

Schools that had mothballed the Pledge of Allegiance, like Batavia (Pa.) High School, have dusted it off, and those that had left its use up to teachers have made it mandatory. Celebration USA Inc., a civic group based in Orange County, Calif., hopes to synchronize a nationwide school recitation of the pledge at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Oct. 12. Teachers and principals say students now stand at attention and virtually shout a pledge they used to mumble.

"You can actually hear people say the pledge now," said Cedric E. Brown, the Student Council president at Jonesboro High, about 20 miles south of Atlanta.

In Alabama, the Legislature passed a nonbinding resolution last week urging school boards to incorporate patriotic education into their daily curriculums. The Shelby County Board of Education in Memphis, Tenn., voted last week to require schools to display a plaque bearing the national motto, In God We Trust, as well as the Pledge of Allegiance.

"We believe that this is a time that the symbols of freedom, the symbols of patriotism, really ought to be held up as a beacon," said David A. Pickler, the board chairman. "The public education system is, in effect, a division of the government, and we feel this reflects the values of the community."

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