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'Understanding the Pledge' bill receives hearing

Students: Schools should teach Pledge history, meaning

OLYMPIA – The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee heard testimony Jan. 25 in a student-led bill to require schools to teach the history and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.

"This is a bill that was brought to me by some very bright and thoughtful students from my district," said Sen. Jim McCune, R-Graham, a member of the committee. "In these divisive times, it was genuinely refreshing to hear these students talk about what the pledge means to them – how it can be a unifying force for all citizens and a way to honor our country, our shared national values and the legacy and sacrifice of our veterans.

"But as they rightfully pointed out, this can only be the case if students actually understand the words and phrases they are compelled to recite."

Under Senate Bill 6205, school districts would be required to offer instruction in the meaning and history of the Pledge of Allegiance, starting no later than the 2025-26 school year. Instruction would be offered once each in elementary, middle and high schools.

The bill also requires the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to make curricular resources available in the library of openly licensed courseware.

McCune said the legislation was the idea of students at Eatonville Middle School, inspired by their teacher, Alex Hansen, who tasked them with researching the words of the pledge and then preparing a presentation to younger students.

Several of the students came to Olympia to testify in support of the measure.

"What is the purpose of our state law requiring all public schools to have a daily flag ritual, which includes reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?" asked eighth-grader Blake Pool. "Whatever your answer is, do you think that purpose is being achieved simply by requiring the pledge be recited?

"We don't think so, and that is the problem we are here to bring to your attention."

Troy Smith, a seventh-grader, told the committee that failure to educate students about the pledge leads to a lack of appreciation of and respect for it.

"We require the pledge to be recited because it is the heart and soul of our founding documents, of what our founding fathers established and of our country's most important principles," Smith said. "Why then, when students say it, do they say it disrespectfully, in a monotone voice, barely sparing it a thought? Because it means nothing to them.

"Without knowing the meaning, students will never understand why the pledge is so important."

Sen. Jeff Wilson said he is proud to co-sponsor the bill.

"We get asked in politics to make many pledges, but the only one I feel comfortable in making is the Pledge of Allegiance," said Wilson, R-Longview. "We've all been saying it since we were kids, but how often do we stop to think about what it really means?

"The more emphasis we place in our schools on our nation's founding principles, the better prepared our children will be to carry them on into the future."

 

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