Today our school held a brief assembly promoting "patriotism." It was actually not bad, by the low standards I've come to expect at our school. The heavy-handed preaching was kept to a minimum, and the Marine Corps band appeared and played, and managed to look and sound professional and impressive.
When my four 9-year old remedial students came to class later in the morning, I discussed the purpose of the assembly with them, and then asked them, "who can tell me the name of the country in which we live?"
Not surprisingly, none of them could name our country. I received two answers, "Hawaii" or "I dunno."
After morning block I caught up with one of the other classes of same age, non-remedial students walking with their teacher. "Hey, Mr. M.," I called to the teacher. "Check this out!" I then asked his class, as they walked past, if they could tell me the name of the country in which we live.
Fifteen kids went by before I received a correct answer. I received the same two responses as my remedial students offered from these 9 and 10 year old fourth-graders.
The teacher was appalled. "Jeez, you guys," he shouted at them. "Look! What does this say?" he asked, pointing at his t-shirt, which read, "Proud to Be an American."
Some time back I posted a query here asking if it is important for students in this country to know the names of the states. The general trend of the responses was, "it depends on what you end up doing for a living, but for the most part, not really."
Now I'm wondering, is it necessary to know the name of the country in which you live?
I wonder how all the soldiers maimed and killed in Iraq and Iran would feel if they knew they were crippled or killed defending a bunch of people who neither know nor care what nation they're living in?
I wonder how many parents of these kids can't name the country in which we live?
By the way: the kids at the school recite the Pledge of Allegiance every single day! But they don't understand a word of it.
As I was talking about this stuff with my remedial students, doing all the compassionate, understanding, teacherly sort of SHIT we're supposed to do to be sensitive to the needs of the students, and using maps and globes to try to make it interesting (the globes I salvaged which were destined for the trash, by the way), one of the kids, a girl, actually said, "can we stop talking about this stuff now? This is boring."
On the plus side, one of the boys (the one who told me that Las Vegas in Brazil) didn't even want to go to recess when it was time. "I love this kind of stuff," he said. "I love learning interesting things!"
Interesting things. Like the name of the country we live in, for starters.
Footnote: just for the record, I was not being "picky" about the name of the country. I was willing to accept anything even close: United States, United States of America, USA, US, America... but not "I dunno."