Many students and teachers were surprised by the recent announcement that CVHS will be expanding its focus on patriotic exercises within school. Along with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, CVHS has launched several new initiatives, such as featured profiles on American heroes during the morning announcements.
The additions were put in place after CVHS failed to meet a California state education code. The regulation states schools should conduct “daily appropriate patriotic exercises,” and that the Pledge of Allegiance fills this requirement. It described the pledge as important for its “expression of patriotism, love of country, and pride in the United States of America.”
The Pledge of Allegiance will now be said Monday and Thursday, and biographies of American heroes will be featured on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, meaning block days will have announcements at the beginning of class. On Fridays, the announcements discuss the importance of that day in American history. So far the broadcasts have featured important figures such as Cesar Chavez and Anne Sullivan.
Leadership and history teacher Nicholas Whitaker says he and his students are trying to find variety to make the state-mandated requirements more interesting.
“I’ve tried to find a balance between not just doing old white males,” said Whitaker. “We’re trying to make it more well rounded.”
Conflicts over the Pledge of Allegiance and its connotations have long existed in the public school system, many resulting in legal battles and Supreme Court rulings. In Newdow v. Rio Linda, courts ruled that the phrase “one nation, under God,” in the pledge is not considered religious speech and has a secular purpose, and therefore is not a violation of a student’s First Amendment rights.
Students, however, are not required to recite the pledge if they do not wish, a verdict settled in West Virginia Board of Ed. v. Barnette. In fact, according to the case of Frazier v. Winn, students do not even have to stand or face the flag respectfully when the pledge is being said.
History teacher Kevin Batchelor commented on the juxtaposition of the patriotic exercises with the original values of the United States.
“It’s ironic to live a nation built on the principles of freedom of thought and yet to also be compelled to participate in state-sponsored expressions of patriotism that are, to most students, meaningless,” said Batchelor.
Nevertheless, CVHS is doing the best it can to make sure students can learn from the mandatory announcements, and even contribute to them themselves.
“If any individual students have recommendations (for American heroes), I’m more than happy to do that,” said Whitaker.