“It is high time to teach the boys and girls of America lessons of patriotism. Why, I have found many cases where the children did not know how to salute the flag of the United States. We intend to teach them, and in giving them ideas of American patriotism we shall also instill in them a love of America and its great historical events which have made us the land of freedom.”
How different was education when "The Greatest Generation" was growing up from what the youth of the Republic receives today? The difference is stark, and even a cursory review of the present situation would lead any objective observer to note that the changes have not been beneficial. The following is an overview of how patriotism was nurtured in one school 100 years ago.
Taken from "For My Country," Popular Educator (September 1917) 5. Edited by Gary M. Bohannon.
A Public School Principal, MRS. OLIVER HARRIMAN, who is Vice-President of an organization called the Junior Patriots of America, announced recently that a campaign has been decided upon to enroll more than two million members within the coming year. Mrs. Harriman is quoted as saying, “It is high time to teach the boys and girls of America lessons of patriotism. Why, I have found many cases where the children did not know how to salute the flag of the United States. We intend to teach them, and in giving them ideas of American patriotism we shall also instill in them a love of America and its great historical events which have made us the land of freedom.”
The heart of every American will throb in sympathy with Mrs. Harriman and God grant success may be hers, but while this organization hopes to enroll two million members, there are millions of children in our public schools that are being instructed and inspired to honor and love the starry banner. In this land of ours thousands of faithful, loyal teachers are daily training the children of these United States in love of country and flag besides giving them num berless lessons that make for good citizenship. Teachers love this blessed land of ours no less than other Americans.
In the school of which it is my privilege to be principal we have more than a thousand children, or about ninety five per cent of the entire number, who are of foreign birth or heritage. From the outside of the building the Stars and Stripes float. In the main assembly room there is a large silk flag which was made by some of the pupils. In each class-room hangs a silk flag. Our school is thirteen years old. For twelve years our pupils have given daily the following exercises which our teachers carry out with enthusiasm and reverence:
At nine o'clock A. M., upon the striking of a special gong or a bugle call, the large flag is raised on the outside of the building, the silk flag is placed in the assembly and a child comes before each class with the silk flag belonging to that class. At the same time the children in all the class-rooms stand and repeat the following:
I am an American Citizen. America is my country.
I will try to be a true and faithful little citizen to my country every day of my life.
The ensign of America is our flag. It safeguards our homes, our school and our country.
We salute our flag because we love and honor it.
This is followed by a salute given with appropriate gestures, while each class-room flag is dipped.
I give my head and my heart and my hand to my country. One country, one language, one flag.
The first three verses of our national hymn, “America,” are then sung.
The exercises are completed by a prayer repeated with bowed heads and lowered tones.
Our Father, help us to-day to work with willing hands. Help us to speak the truth and to be loving, obedient little citizens. May our dear America be a better country because we children live in it. AMEN.
The flag is then put in place after which the children sit. Five minutes before the close of school in the afternoon, at the strike of special gong or bugle call, all work is put aside, the flag in each class-room is again brought before the class by the flag-bearer, and the children sing the last verse of “America.”
This is followed by this little prayer of thanksgiving:
Our Father, we thank Thee that America is our Country. We thank Thee that we live under the Stars and Stripes.
Help us always to be obedient, loyal American citizens. AMEN.
After this the flag is put away, the building flag is lowered and the assembly flag is taken down.
The exercises for the grammar grades are given in exactly the same way, the form of the Declaration and Prayer only being somewhat different because better adapted to older pupils.
I am a citizen of the United States of America, and I hereby pledge myself to live my life to the glory of my country.
I will speak the truth, because my country has no need of a liar.
I will be brave, because my country has no need of a coward.
I will work and not beg, because my country has no need of an idler.
I will be one to prove my country the greatest nation on earth in industry, in wisdom and in goodness.
Same as for primary grades.
First three verses of “America.”
Our Father, help us to-day to be truthful, honorable, loyal citizens; to scorn to be idle, selfish or dishonest. Help us to do our work so faithfully that we shall be an honor to our school, our city, our country, our flag. AMEN.
Close of School
Last verse of “America.”
Our Father, we thank Thee that Thou hast given us America for our home. We thank Thee that we may live under the inspiration of our dear flag. Help us to show our gratitude to Thee by striving to be honorable, law abiding American citizens. AMEN.