Patriotism? It’s the Fourth of July in America. Our flags are waving, parades are marching, bands are playing, fireworks are going off all around me (despite the drought), and the grills are fired up for hotdogs and hamburgers. But have you ever considered what patriotism is?
I explored several sources on patriotism including wikipedia, the fantastic website by Annette Lamb and Jerry Johson, sites like USA Patriotism with tons of listings of songs, speeches, poems, essays and shops, and technorati’s version of everything in the known universe on patriotism.
I also read essays on the perils of patriotism and nationalism. How do we teach civics and the values of our country while respecting the rights and values of other countries and nations? I have lived outside of America on the 4th of July before. In Taiwan, ROC, there were many Americans joining together to celebrate the fourth with our Chinese friends. There were statues of liberty throughout the city and at parties everywhere while people embraced freedom and our core values. While living in Germany to support my army husband, we celebrated on post.
Having traveled extensively I have seen others’ pride in their countries. My in-laws are from Canada and we recognized Canada Day July 1st. Our favorite time of celebrating was with them in Thunder Bay at Fort William where they held a multi-cultural celebration within the fort. Our four boys were able to explore history, learn about other cultures, play games, and eat a much wider variety of food (including my favorite Polish Pastries).
My first husband’s family in Taiwan celebrated holidays with me and shared the history behind each day whether it was national or historical. We also stood for the national anthem before every showing of a movie there. I appreciated Constitution Day on December 25th in Taiwan since they decorated all government buildings with white lights around all edges when I lived there. Learning about the history of other countries, I could more deeply appreciate the history and values of my own.
If you have been watching Congress, you’ll see that civics education is a current focus. When I met with representatives and senators on Library Day on the Hill, I did remind them that much of the social studies curriculum is taught in conjunction with the library program currently so if they do pass any of their inititatives to be sure to include school library media specialists as teachers within any grant or funding programs.
We now celebrate Constitution Day in America in the fall. Publishers have risen to the demand and rushed many titles through the presses. School librarians have the opportunity to share these with all students and to do more than simply read about America. We can share the facts about valuing all people around the world and putting our core values to good work for the benefit of all.
I am sitting by the telephone hoping that my sons in basic training will have a moment to call me. True patriotism could mean you act upon your beliefs to protect the rights of others. I’m far prouder of my sons than the neighbor down the street who drug his flag out to drive up and down the road, but I will work to protect his right to do so. Go forth and celebrate your freedoms.