The Fourth of July has always been a favorite holiday of mine. The fireworks, the food, the abundance of red, white and blue, the obligatory History Channel marathon of something about the American Revolution; it all is precisely in this history teaching, America loving, BBQ enthusiast’s wheelhouse. The Fourth is the day where nearly all of our nation’s traditions and rituals are put on full display, and I hope that our students (and really all Americans) recognize the significance of this nation and the great responsibility placed in all citizens by the Founders.
During the annual fireworks display I always find myself taking a moment and reflecting with pride the origins of our nation and the principles in which we were founded. This opportunity to reflect is really the purpose of our national traditions, but too often we get so caught up in the hectic nature of 21st century life that the meaning gets lost. In terms of school, my mind immediately goes to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by students of all ages. Those schools where this is a daily or weekly requirement display an admirable dedication to honoring America, but I hope the respective social studies teachers in those buildings take the time to remind their students of the magnitude of those words. The Pledge of Allegiance is a powerful act that strikes at the heart of what it means to be a voluntary, active member of our republic. However, without reflecting upon its meaning it can become an empty gesture that is done without meaning or significance. In my class I took a portion of a 45-minute class period to discuss with my kids the significance of the Pledge and what exactly they were doing as they have been reciting it for years.