Updated: Jul 5
In recent years in America, it's become less popular and more controversial to honor our flag and country or show patriotism. I share my thoughts about this topic on this week's podcast of the Practically Speaking MOM Podcast, episode 191. CLICK HERE to listen.
I have always seen myself as a patriotic person and raised my six older kids to
*honor our veterans
*respect the flag as a symbol of freedom
*do what we can to perpetuate freedom for all people
*grow their understanding of our system of government
The controversy about patriotism, honoring the flag, and whether to write-out some of history regarding the founders of the United States has certainly given me a lot to think about and evaluate as I proceed through raising our final child that is still home.
Here's what I've concluded so far about all of this...
1. In all of life we are teaching our children how to make wise decisions by learning all angles and aspects of topics and we need to do the same regarding our nation and it's government. We should look at all of it as accurately and honestly as possible. We shouldn't sugarcoat the past or demonize the past. We could have and should have done better as a nation, as curriculum writers, as educators who choose what curriculum is used, to teach our kids more accurately about some of the wrong things that have happened in American history. We need to have plenty of conversations with our kids about the Trail of Tears, Black Wall Street, Chinese internment camps, and various other difficult things from our past. Some history curriculum left out or underplayed the impact of such topics from our past.
Likewise, to teach history accurately, we should be teaching the good and heroic aspects of our history as well. We don't correct faulty history curriculum that left out the bad (generating blissful ignorance) by writing new curriculum that leaves out the good (generating hatred and division). We need curriculum that tells the truth accurately, without emotional charge, and that motivates growth and improvement. (I make a curriculum recommendation later in this blogpost.)
We need to "tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth," and make sure that we do all of this with a lot of conversation, without being emotionally charged, and with an agenda of growth.
Just as we can't leave the work of spiritual growth in our children to church leaders alone, so we also can't leave political and government understanding of our history to schools alone. It is our job to oversee and impact the growth of our children in all areas of their development, including their understanding of American history as it applies to America today, and how we should affect tomorrow.
2. Every nation on earth has caused injustices and made big errors by the leadership of that nation. That is the history of the entire world, because the world is made up of flawed people with broken hearts. As we tell our children the truth about past misjudgments in our nation, we must let them see the flawed history of other nations as well so that they see this is a universal heart problem. Injustice is not exclusive to the United States of America. Teaching our children to hate our nation is like teaching them to hate our family. Teaching them to be apathetic about our nation is like teaching them to be apathetic about our family. We need to motivate engagement in the issues, teach them to respect perspectives that differ from our own, and seek to bring healing and unity at every turn if we want to see the division diminish and to see true growth happen here.
3. Let's celebrate the good. One thing I highly respect about the U.S. is that, in general, we have a track record of seeking to right our wrongs. We identify the problems within, and we work to stop them and correct them. That's worth celebrating. We're not getting all aspects of this right as we examine and identify the flaws and mend the flaws, but we do what we can to repair those who have been injured, even making amends to their decedents. That is an exceptional and exemplary quality not found in most other nations. As we continue to evaluate how to best handle all of the ripple effects of past decisions, we can celebrate that we are a nation who seeks to correct and mend.
There are many more reasons to celebrate our nation and it is important for children to learn to look for the good - in themselves, in family members, in neighbors, and in our nation. It doesn't mean we are ignoring the problems when we acknowledge the positive. The collective mental health and social health of our national family really does depend on our ability to identify the positive and celebrate it while we work on the problems. As parents, when we are frustrated with the government or an election process, we don't realize the impact our attitude and words are having on our children's perspective. They need to see us handling the frustrations with HOPE. And one other side note about hope and government. I want my children and grandchildren to know that my ultimate hope is NOT in any government but in God.
4. Just as we don't want to hold back information about the Trail of Tears and other misjudgments in our past, we don't want to rewrite history inaccurately in the other direction either, by removing names of our founders, removing books from our past, and other ways of rewriting history. To pendulum swing from one side of inaccuracy to the other side of inaccuracy is not growth. Whether sugar-coated or anger-charged, both are unhelpful to the health of our nation.
Instead of re-writing history, we must use it as a teacher. For example, when my kids and I are reading a classic book written in an earlier time period of American history and we come across words that were disrespectful to a people group, that is an important opportunity to discuss what earlier generations of people groups experienced, what was wrong with those words, and how we want to care for people in the way we speak of others and to others. I don't want to eliminate the book. If we remove the book, we lose the opportunity to teach that lesson. Removing the book is removing a part of our past which is the best teacher for the present. I need those books if I want to give my kids a true picture of what was going on, to discuss how we can improve the future.
All of us are flawed; we are each a mix of good and bad. Therefore, we can teach about all of the people from our history and point out the bad parts of them and the good parts of them. We don't have to write people out because they were flawed. It will teach our children more if we keep the aspects of our past as part of our teaching, but give a more accurate look at both the positive and negative sides of their leadership. Let's talk about the ways they led well and the ways they led poorly. Talk about the character of their hearts, the morality of those who've gone before us, and inspire our children to be aware of their own heart and character. It is this kind of complex conversation that helps to grow our kids' ability to make difficult decisions for themselves and to build character in them.
5. We don't have to write some of them out, but we do need to be honest, accurate and full of information about the many aspects of our history. This requires us, as parents, to become informed as well. Thus, we must pick our sources carefully. I love Notgrass history as a source for accurate information about American history. Notgrass History gives a balanced approach about our American history in a way that kids can learn from and so can parents. So, whether you homeschool or not, I would encourage you to take a look at www.notgrass.com. (I am not in any way affiliated with Notgrass and don't benefit in any way from sharing about it. I simply have found it beneficial for my current teaching with my youngest child). I also have found www.history.com to be accurate and unbiased in the topics we have researched there.
We don't want to teach our kids about the past in a way that increases anger, resentment and hatred. Nor do we want to teach blind patriotism. When we teach our children about the misjudgments in our nation's history, we need to do it in a way that motivates healing, that inspires awareness to not make the same mistakes again, that shows the complexity of each leader from the past, that generates unity, and that takes personal responsibility to increase the health of our nation as a whole.
The nation we live in is our home. The people of our nation are our national family. When we teach hatred and division, we are hurting ourselves. Whether it is our family or our nation that is broken and needs healing, we heal by mending, by correcting, by honoring one another, not by seeking to "win" against the other side of the political debate. We can honor those whose views differ from our own and celebrate that it is our freedom that allows healthy debate.
We cannot heal by tearing one another down, whether a family or a nation.
We can celebrate the good parts while we work on the parts that need to grow.
We can't build and strengthen by dividing.
We can and should and must *examine carefully, *be honest with ourselves, our kids, and one another, *work hard to grow and improve, *repair and mend, *all from an attitude of growth and inspiration and believing that our nation is worth healing and is worth protecting.
It is possible to teach our children patriotism in an imperfect nation.
Here is a prayer for our nation by the late Billy Graham: Our Father and our God, we praise you for your goodness to our nation, giving us blessings far beyond what we deserve. Yet we know all is not right with America. We deeply need a moral and spiritual renewal to help us meet the many problems we face. Convict us of sin, help us to turn to you in repentance and faith. Set our feet on the path of your righteousness and peace. We pray today for our nation's leaders. Give them the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it. You have said, blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. May this be a new era for America, as we humble ourselves and acknowledge you alone as our Savior and Lord. This we pray in Your holy name. Amen.
The next two week's on the podcast you will meet Julie Redmund from Mom Made Plans Podcast! You'll love the organization and parent tips shared between Julie and me, Val Harrison, The Practically Speaking MOM!
Here's a few more blog posts by The Practically Speaking MOM...
And here's a couple podcast episodes to check out...