Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hamilton to honor veterans through flag fundraiser effort

Most people can recall being in elementary school and saying the pledge. The flag’s blue and red hues hung from a wooden pole in some corner of the classroom. It was one of many decorations in the room, next to the multiplication table and calendar that everyone had to look at in order to spell ‘Wednesday’ right.

The bell would ring, attendance was taken, and our teacher would ask everyone to stand. It wasn’t something that was questioned; it was just done. As a little second grader, there’d have to be an extra second to make sure the right hand was over the heart, but the words of the pledge came out easily in a synchronized monotone voice with the rest of the class.

It all lasted for a few years until the bus went to the middle school and all that just went away.  Many students might not even have noticed that the flags weren’t there. But after saying it literally hundreds of times in those early years, most students won’t forget the collection of patriotic words, even in the absence of the flag.

Now it’s 2013, and thanks to sevearal representatives in Michigan the flags, and the pledge, are back.

A bill was proposed back in September of 2011 by Michigan Representative Kevin Cotter (R-Midland) because he didn’t agree with the absence of such an important icon. At the start of planning, Michigan was one of eight states that didn’t have requirements for schools to have flags in the classrooms.

Rep. Cotter wasn’t available for interview, but local Representative Bob Genetski (R-Allegan) answered a few questions about the new law. According to Rep. Genetski, the bill would have made an earlier appearance had it not been for the two revisions the legislature had to make.

Finances and certain requirements were under consideration in the time it was being planned. One areas that was considered was whether reciting the pledge should be a requirement. He said that forcing students to do so would create problems and it “would be really difficult” for schools to mandate.

When asked about schools under financial distress, Genetski explained that local American Legions are helping pay for the flags, and schools can come up with their own way to fundraise for the new additions.

With the third version of the bill finally passed, the law is now in effect for the 2013-2014 year.

At Hamilton High School, according to Vice Principal Mat Rehkopf, the school had to purchase 50 flags for the high school building. The total cost came out to $400. Although it wasn’t a major hit for Hamilton, the administration still came up with a fundraiser allowing the people in the community to buy a plaque in honor of someone who has served or is serving in a war.

Rep. Genetski said the goal of this new law was to give students the opportunity to show their patriotism. According to a survey done by the ThunderHawk newspaper, Hamilton High School has approximately 74% of it’s students standing to recite the pledge. No one is being required to stand, but everyone has their own reason to do it.

High school English teacher, Mrs. Sarah Chanski, explained that she can’t “see a flag, hear the national anthem, or say the Pledge of Allegiance without replaying the events of September 11, 2001,” and says the pledge in “dedication to (her) brother, Stephen, who is in the Army and recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.”

 Not everyone found it “hard to vote against patriotism,” as Rep. Genetski put it. Three of the 108 representatives in Michigan voted against this when it passed on September 20, 2012.

Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) is one of the people that voted no. When conducting an interview he said that the government’s “priorities are misconstrued” and said the whole law was “un-American”.

He says that there are more important things the government could be doing than worrying about what public schools have to do. He says this is just another way the state is trying to force schools to do things. He also predicts that this will be an ineffective change for students. When the pledge becomes a “rote recitation,” the outcome won’t be what is desired.

Rep. Irwin explained that he is just as patriotic as his fellow representatives, but the flag is a symbol of something bigger than 4 x 2 feet of red, white, and blue cloth. He claims, ‘the principle is more important than the symbol.”

Still, that symbol now hangs in every classroom, in every public school in Michigan.

Will this prevent another 9/11? Will it make future soldiers out of all of us? Will it increase test scores?

No one really knows, but it’s about 15 seconds to stand and recite it.

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