The upcoming July 4th holiday marks the conclusion of a month-long celebration of America and 240 years of independence.
But it really should mark the beginning, not the end, of our celebration — of the renewed dedication it takes to fortify freedom and democracy daily.
Under various Congressional resolutions, the people of the United States have been called upon “to observe with pride and all due ceremony those days from Flag Day … (June 14) through Independence Day … as a time to honor America, to celebrate our heritage in public gatherings and activities, and to publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.”
This July 4th should be different. Let’s not end the celebration; let’s continue it.
While there may be too much ignorance of our rich history to fully appreciate it in some quarters, many of us in state government are working hard to assure that future generations will not forget the freedoms and ideals for which our forebearers have fought and often sacrificed their lives.
During the 109th General Assembly just ended, I proudly sponsored the new law requiring threshold proficiency in basic citizenship as a prerequisite to graduation. This, in turn, supplements the 2012 requirements I championed to assure that civics is taught and assessed in our elementary and middle schools.
Every day is Flag Day in Tennessee thanks to Public Chapter 841, which I proudly co-sponsored in 2002 with Senators Rusty Crowe, Randy McNally and Mae Beavers (who served in the House at that time), requiring that, among other things, the pledge be a part of the daily school schedule and requiring students to learn it and demonstrate their knowledge of it.
Local organizations are encouraged to provide flags for classrooms.
The Tennessee Supreme Court recently received a national recognition for its SCALES Project (Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students), which has educated more than 25,000 high school students about the judicial branch of government through interactive experience involving actual cases before the court.
The Secretary of State’s office also has a program to foster the teaching of civics. The Tennessee Historical Society organizes History Day, in which hundreds of students compete each year.
The General Assembly also helps fund the publication of history books that are available to teachers for use in supplementing the teaching of Tennessee history.
Rather than mark the conclusion of our 240th year of American independence this 4th of July, let us mark the beginning of the next two centuries of freedom by honoring the beginning of Old Glory’s 240th anniversary next year — June 14, 2017 — all year long.
Let’s do that by assuring that our classrooms are sufficiently adorned with American flags and equipped with materials and the means appropriate to patriotic education.
Let’s work to better coördinate the civics, history and good government programs already underway to assure that we leverage them in meaningful ways and adequately fund them to support our schools and teachers with the right resources to get the job done.
I’m committed to working with my colleagues in the Senate and the House to make sure we do these things. We will start by contacting each school across the state to determine whether they have what they need, starting with an American flag in every classroom.
These are troubled times in which we live. Now, more than ever, we must re-dedicate ourselves to the cause of freedom and the knowledge required to appreciate and sustain it. With your encouragement and support, we will.
Happy 240th, America!
Here’s to Old Glory’s 240th next year!
Tennessee Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) may be reached via his website at marknorris.org/ blog1/. See his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Senator-Mark-Norris/56820497953 and follow him as @SenatorNorris on Twitter.