Oh, say can you see … No
The idea of playing the national anthem and state song, “Alaska’s Flag,” monthly in Anchorage schools seemed so timely, so cogent, so right, but not everybody agreed.
The district’s seven-member school board inexplicably rejected the proposal 3-4 last night. It had been offered by board member Dave Donley as a way to instill patriotic principles in students and build unity in Anchorage’s schools.
Board members Margo Bellamy, Alisha Hilde, Deena Mitchell and board President Starr Marsett were the “no” votes. Board members Donley, Andy Holleman and Elisa Vakalis voted in favor.
The district does mandate a daily Pledge of Allegiance, but has no policy about the national anthem and state song, although they on occasion are played at school events in the district.
Donley’s proposal would have had the songs played during the first week of school and monthly after that. It is nothing short of surprising to us that anybody would even think to object to a regular playing of the songs. But we are surprised almost daily.
“There’s not a chance I could vote for something like this,” board member Alisha Hilde said before casting a “no” vote. “It does not advance student learning, we’re not going to help kids get jobs or go to college, this is one little thing.”
It would seem to us that hearing the Star Spangled Banner and the Alaska Flag song on a monthly basis in district schools would not be such an imposition on the district or a burden on its administrators and teachers. Doing so would ensure students have the chance to learn the words to each song and perhaps come to feel, as those of us who sometimes tear up at hearing them, a connection each and every time they are played. They tell us despite our differences, we are Americans. We are Alaskans. We belong to something larger, something we are proud of.
Why the majority of the board members think regularly playing the songs is a waste of time or a distraction is something they can explain to voters in the next election, but frankly their reasons against wanting to play them – including not wanting to “codify” a schedule of the songs or mandating students “rotely” listen to them – seem cockamamie to us.
In a time when the United States all too often is cast as the bad guy, it would be good for our youngsters to be reminded on a regular basis this nation serves as a beacon of hope for most of the world; that people so desperately want to be here that they risk their lives to breathe our air; and, that they are part of America’s greatness.
What the board did calls to mind all the very good reasons – accountability among them – to change Anchorage School Board elections from at-large to a district system.
There is nothing like having to explain yourself to clear up muddled thinking. Perhaps they could begin at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery by explaining to the headstones why the songs are an imposition.