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Patriotism at Parker

Why don’t we incorporate the National Anthem or Pledge of Allegiance into Parker’s routines?

Northwestern+football+games+are+some+of+the+many+examples+where+the+National+Anthem+and+flag+are+presented+prior+to+an+event.
Northwestern football games are some of the many examples where the National Anthem and flag are presented prior to an event.

Northwestern football games are some of the many examples where the National Anthem and flag are presented prior to an event.

Photo by Julia Auerbach

Photo by Julia Auerbach

Northwestern football games are some of the many examples where the National Anthem and flag are presented prior to an event.

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Recently, America has been deeply analyzing the meaning of patriotism and of the rituals embedded within the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. Patriotism at Parker, specifically, is an ongoing debate, and the reasoning behind the absence of the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance at Parker is complex.

According to Jeanne Barr, an Upper School history teacher at Parker, “The National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance were institutions in our culture that were, at one time, almost untouchable.”

Since the 1960’s, however, this notion of absolute allegiance has come into question both in and out of the Parker community.

In the opinion of Joe Wein, a Parker graduate of the class of ‘79, a Parker parent, and a U.S. Army veteran, “Not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or hearing the National Anthem is an absence of knowledge–not a conscious rejection of our blessing, rather simply ignorance.” Wein feels that if Parker’s goal is to create citizens who are fully capable of serving the city in which they live, then they need to understand the blessings that society has created for them.

Barr believes that the lack of these traditions at Parker is what makes Parker different, and said that this “is a reflection of us being independent–how we think for ourselves, choose our own sub-points, and create our own rituals, and don’t tend to absorb them from external sources. To the extent that we are unquestionably raising individuals who love this country, the expression of that sometimes can take the form of actions and choices well beyond singing a song or saying the anthem.”

Jill Weininger, a retired school principal in the suburbs of Chicago, immediately introduced the morning Pledge of Allegiance to the schools where she became principal. When asked why, she said, “I just think we are individuals who are a part of larger community, and part of learning about our country and what it means to honor and respect it is to learn the Pledge, learn what it means and say it as part of a daily ritual. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything the country does, and you can still learn to express your views, but learning and taking a part in the Pledge is a way of being a part of something larger than yourself. Even though students are not forced to participate, it is a way to honor and recognize the lives lost and the ongoing service that has contributed to the lives we all have today.”

Weininger emphasized that the notion that one’s self-expression “supersedes everything else” is simply an unrealistic expectation. She doesn’t believe, however, that one shouldn’t stand up for social justice or voice their opinion. Rather, she believes that students can do both and still honor all the lives that have been lost.

Alexandra Ori, a current sophomore at Parker, feels a need to honor those that served our country. When asked about Parker’s role in this, Ori said she hopes that “as a school we don’t associate the National Anthem with bad connotations, even though it can be interpreted as such. It’s one thing that has the ability to bring us together… and allows us to put aside our differences, and the competition, and have everyone stand together…unified.”

Leila Griffin, a current freshman and member of the volleyball team, believes that the National Anthem is heavily correlated to racial injustice. Griffin said, “It doesn’t make sense to salute a nation that’s anthem is prejudice against the African-American race.”

A point of concern for some students and other members of the Parker community regards the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner, which reads, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave,/ From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,/ And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,/ O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Barr said, “It’s really advocating for slavery.” Wein interprets this verse differently. “It’s very difficult to know whether the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner is referring to chattel slavery,” Wein said, “or whether ‘hireling and slave’ are different versions of oppressed people.”

According to Bobby Starks, the Athletic Director at Parker, the Anthem is an occasional feature of school life here.  “The National Anthem is occasionally played throughout normal athletic seasons, but always expect to hear it at regional and homecoming games, and most basketball games as well,” Starks said. “Often, this is because we have access to a sound system or it’s mandated by the Independent Sports League… Usually events or incidents that occur in professional leagues, like the NFL, such as the kneeling that occurred with Colin Kaepernick tend to trickle down to levels as low as high school sports, and really influence our students’ mindsets and opinions.”

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Patriotism at Parker