Flag Day disappears from public schools amid culture wars

Perhaps with all the emphasis on exposing students to burning cultural issues, there just isn’t a place in the modern American classroom for classes on Flag Day, the annual celebration of the history of the Stars and Stripes.

A study indicates that more than 30% of children do not know that the American flag has 50 stars representing the 50 states of the nation.

The survey, released by homework-learning platform Brainly ahead of Tuesday’s holiday, also found that 53.2% of middle and high school students do not discuss Flag Day at their schools. Yet more than 35% want to know more.

James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said the holiday – which commemorates the day in 1777 when the United States approved the design of its first national flag – matters less today than the elements of the flag and “how they mean different things to different people.”

“Perhaps the flag is best thought of not in terms of students memorizing facts about it, but as a source of thoughtful questions in a history or civics class,” Grossman said in an email on Monday. “What should the elements of the flag represent? Why?”

Wilfred M. McClay, a historian at Hillsdale College, says American history classes have increasingly “discouraged” focusing on the flag as a symbol of the country’s freedoms while emphasizing the constitutional right to burn it.

“Because the flag is our most powerful symbol of what makes us one people. We should not be surprised if our negligence in this regard will have serious consequences for our cohesion as a nation,” McClay said on Monday.

This year’s Flag Day comes amid a contentious national debate over whether America’s public schools should shape students’ opinions on controversial political issues or stick to the facts of reading, writing and arithmetic.

Encouraged by parenting rights groups, Republican lawmakers have promoted parental rights in education laws in states like Florida and Oklahoma to remove “dividing concepts” from the classroom.

These concepts include lessons on gender identity for young children, discussions of systemic racism in the nation’s history, and “wake math” textbooks that use examples of both in word problems.

Robert Gmeiner, an economist at Methodist University of North Carolina, said the American flag is a controversial symbol of racism and sexism for those who promote such courses.

He cites as an example the pushback by far-left activists against Nike’s Betsy Ross sneakers, which featured the nation’s original flag with 13 stars in a circle to represent the 13 colonies that formed the United States.

“He was seen as a symbol of slavery,” Mr Gmeiner said.

Although many schools are closed for summer vacation every June 14, a teacher helped develop the annual vacation, also known as National Flag Day.

Wisconsin teacher Bernard J. Cigrand urged his students in 1885 to observe the date as “the birthday of the flag.” His desire to honor the flag led him to write an article in a Chicago newspaper.

As regional celebrations spread, President Wilson proclaimed June 14 Flag Day in 1916. Congress permanently established the observance in 1949.

Despite this story, only 45% of students who responded to Brainly’s survey knew that the original American flag had 13 stars.

The survey also revealed that only 16% of respondents correctly knew that the colors red, white and blue mean bravery, purity and justice. Over 59% of the rest incorrectly said it represented freedom, equality and justice for all.

Colleen Sheehan, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, says the survey shows schools could better teach students about the flag.

“The American flag reminds us of what America stood for when we were founded. It reminds us of the work we still have to do today to live up to that vision, that idea contained in the word ‘America’ Ms. Sheehan said on Monday.

Comments are closed.