Arkansas lawmakers voted Monday to instill patriotism in students by forcing them to recite the Pledge of Allegiance once a day and to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at least once a week.
The bills by Rep. Mark Berry (R-Ozark) passed the Arkansas House easily, despite questions over whether this is the best way to forge love of country.
His House Bill 1831, “To Create The Star Spangled Banner Act,” would require the national anthem be played in k-12 classrooms at least once a week and at all sporting events in public schools, colleges and universities. House Bill 1832 requires a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in k-12 schools, and additionally at after-school assemblies and sporting events, followed by a minute of silence during which “each student may reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student.”
Berry said he put the measures forward to combat what he called a serious decline in patriotism among our youth.
“I honestly think children take our freedom for granted,” he said. Even adults in the United States don’t think enough about our heritage, our freedom and our flag, he said. Berry lamented that children today don’t understand what allegiance is, and don’t know the words to the national anthem.
“They’ve never heard thew words, ‘life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness,’ ” Berry said.
A veteran, Berry talked about his service helping to patrol the Korean DMZ. The flag he wore on his uniform helped him whenever he felt his patriotism was put to the test.
Rep. Megan Godfrey (D-Springdale), a former teacher, spoke up with concerns about the requirement to sing or play “The Star-Spangled Banner” weekly cutting into class time. She suggested that folding “The Star Spangled Banner” into music or Arkansas history curriculum might be more meaningful and more efficient as teachers squeeze in all that’s required of them.
Godfrey’s suggestion to integrate “The Star-Spangled Banner” into instruction instead was met with derision by Rep. Jim Wooten (R-Beebe), who likened it to Black players in the NFL kneeling before games.
Wooten later apologized to Godfrey from the well.
The bill now goes to the Senate side.