Patriotism levels are on the decline among today’s youth

By Michael Bradshaw & Hannah Wing

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Photographer - Claire Ward
Photographer – Claire Ward

We all know these words. We all know their importance to our country. Why doesn’t 65 percent of the student body stand up for the pledge every day then? Is this a result of declining patriotism among teens?

Although the majority of students don’t stand up for the pledge there are still a select few that openly display patriotism. Dexter High School junior Randy Gesell is one of these remaining students who feel a strong sense of pride for their country.

“Patriotism is important and pledging allegiance to the flag is something everyone should do,” Gesell said. “I think people are just lazy and they don’t see it as important as it really is. They don’t want to be judged by standing up and that’s a big reason.”

Social studies teacher Jaime Dudash believes that the declining number of students standing up isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead it may be a demonstration of the freedoms in America.

“I don’t think it [not standing] is necessarily a protest. I think they just know that they have a choice and they’re exercising their right not to choose to do that,” Dudash said.  “I think it’s probably a good example of what the reason we have all these rights and freedoms for. They can choose to pass.”

The pledge of allegiance every morning is one way that students can routinely express their patriotism. Another opportunity to display patriotism occurs outside of school at sporting events: the national anthem.

Before every sporting event, ranging from youth flag football to the NBA, the national anthem is played. During this display of patriotism and pride for America various thoughts race through an athlete’s mind. Although, 85 percent of DHS students feel the national anthem before sporting events is necessary, many students take it for granted.

Senior three-sport athlete Anna Love agrees that most fellow athletes don’t recognize the real importance of the national anthem.

“Most people play the national anthem before games because everyone does it, not because they feel like it is important,” Love said.

The national anthem has lost meaning as it has just become part of the pregame routine. “I guess I’m thinking about the game we are about to play and trying to get myself ready to play. I’m not really thinking about the national anthem,” said Love, who plays field hockey, basketball, and softball.

Coaches notice the lack of sincerity athletes have, and some are bothered by it.

“My husband spent 10 years in the military so it’s one of those symbols of our true freedom,” Dexter varsity volleyball Coach D’Ann Dunn said. “I think [the national anthem] is one of those reminders that we need to appreciate before games.

“With the pledge I think it’s one that we need to remember and recognize and really reflect on how important it is as a symbol to America.”

Coach Dunn hopes that her players understand the meaning of the national anthem and appreciate the freedoms they have because of it as much as she does.

Some cite the routineness of both the pledge and the national anthem as the reason for lost meaning.

“I think it’s the pledge of allegiance or the singing of the national anthem are things that in some places they become so commonplace,” Dudash said.

Is the problem bigger than just not standing up for the pledge and respecting the national anthem? Dunn thinks so.

“I do [think athletes take the national anthem for granted],” Dunn said. “I think they take their freedom for granted, I think they take their education for granted. Their ability to just be able to come to practice and not have to worry about their safety.”

The small number of students standing for the pledge and singing the national anthem suggests a serious decline in levels of patriotism among teens. Many people feel that compared to older generations, teenagers seemingly don’t have the same patriotic sentiments as their parents and grandparents. A possible reason why patriotism numbers are lower could be now is the lack of patriotism rallying points.

“People are more patriotic when there is something to be patriotic about,” Dudash said. “So historically, every generation save for the current generation, unless you want to use 9/11 as a rallying point, was involved in war. Since 1900 men either went off to war in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or other conflicts, so there was always something to rally around.”

DHS English teacher Jill Fyke agrees with Dudash.

“I think it comes in spurts, and I think it’s on the heels of something that happens nationally that spurs on the patriotism.”

Many adults comment on how teens are apathetic about everything, and patriotism could just be another subject that teens don’t care about.

“They’re apathetic about a lot of stuff but it’s because they’re not necessarily exposed to a lot of things that they could get passionate about,” Fyke said.

However, patriotism can’t be another issue that teens look over Gesell said.

“[The lack of patriotism in today’s youth] bothers me a little bit,” Gesell said. “It’s kind of expected with people these days because they don’t see the importance of supporting America and being patriotic.”

Whether it be apathy affecting students, or just a lack of life experience to plant the seeds of patriotism, teenagers have less patriotic sentiments than previous generations.

“Patriotism is important to recognize where we came from,” senior Austin Wutt said. “It’s important to remember our roots and be proud of the United States.”

“Oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there
Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O the land of the free and the home of the brave.”