Today is President’s Day and the History Teacher in me has a few things to say.
Back in the 70s when in elementary school we the students would commemorate Presidents day by making paper plate President’s faces. We would attach a popsicle stick and hold them up in front of our faces.
We students had no idea what a President was back then–but we knew he must be important because the only other faces we put on paper plates were Jesus and Santa Claus. Very important folks to the little ones.
In the late 70s and early 80s we students in middle school, recited parts of important speeches–primarily by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
We students knew that the President was the leader of our country, that he had tremendous responsibilities and pressures and that some were better than others. We understood that the Office of the President was an important and sacred one.
By the mid to late 80s we students in high school celebrating President’s Day in school was a little more exciting. We were allowed to pick the President of our choice, research his background, policies, positives and negatives. Most of us wrote research papers about our choice–some had classroom debates about the merits of our chosen Presidential Administration.
We students felt empowered to be allowed to have an opinion. I do not recall a teacher ever telling us our opinion was incorrect. We respected the Office of the President and knew the job was a hard one and that most people did not agree with everything each President did but we would defend our President because he was ours and Ours was the Best Country in the World. We students were optimistic.
And we all, students and teachers alike, got President’s Day off. It was a national holiday, schools closed, the Post Office closed and the banks closed.
Fast forward 30 years and a great deal has changed. Now it seems we teach less and less about our Presidents, our Founding Fathers, our Government structure and our Constitution.
Most of my former and present students don’t know who the Presidents are and don’t feel that the job is that difficult, prestigious or important. They don’t understand how to love their country and they don’t recognize “Hail to the Chief” when it is played.
As a History Teacher of course, this makes me sad.
On most school calendars, many schools around the nation still have the day off in observance of President’s Day, but more and more I notice district calendars observing it one year and maybe not the next–I guess it has become an optional thing.
It is not that important to me whether I get the day off or not, but it is important to me when I realize there is no “observance” of the Office of the President as it used to be.
Many students today have no idea who George Washington was, what Abraham Lincoln did for slavery, how John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Not to mention so many other Presidents–who may not all have been very effective–but at least left us with beautiful traditions for our nation.
I think we have lost something very important along the way.
Nonetheless I am very proud to be an American. I still believe we live in the Best Country in the World and I honor the Office of the President–no matter who is occupying it.
Have a happy Monday! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think of President’s Day. Have fun!