Patriotism can be learned but it should not be taught

By Stepha Poulin and By Stepha Poulin

The College of the Ozarks, located in Point Lookout, Missouri, has introduced a new required course for freshman: “Patriotic Education and Fitness.”

An article in The Sacremento Times says the course “aims to educate students on modern military customs, American politics and flag protocol and procedures.”

Most college students learn about our country’s politics in high school, yet many don’t know about military customs. The class could teach students something new about the armed forces. However, is patriotism something that can be taught?

In my opinion, patriotism isn’t a value that should remain constant throughout a person’s life. Respect for our troops doesn’t have to correlate with someone’s level of patriotism, either.

Terrence Dake, a board of trustees member for the college and a retired general with the U.S. Marine Corps, said he believes the class will “plant a seed that will grow within (students).”

“Patriotic” is defined as “having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.” With differing political views, it’s impossible to “plant the seeds” of patriotism within everyone. Also, this definition explains the level of support for one’s country, not respect for the armed forces.

In the wake of NFL protests, the college may be trying to prevent graduates from carrying out acts of protest that may be described as unpatriotic. However, Kaepernick carried out his protest in a way that was respectful to the armed forces, even if it seems disrespectful to our flag or the country.

Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret, said “(Kaepernick and I) sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammate. Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect.”

Kaepernick took the time to see how he could protest in the most respectful way possible, but there was still backlash – and that’s okay. The most patriotic person ever may seem like a Benedict Arnold to another person. Luckily, the First Amendment allows us all to display our patriotism, or lack thereof, freely.

Even with a class that intends to instill patriotic values, there are other factors that affect one’s patriotism, and one class (usually) can’t change views which have been held for a long time.

The college’s president, Jerry Davis, said, “Patriotic education is not inherited. It must be taught, it must be modeled and it must be emphasized.”

To me, “patriotic education” can’t simply be taught in a college course. It consists of the experiences we have living in our country – and that can be a life-long learning experience. I don’t want a nation of indoctrinated patriots, I want a nation of self-chosen patriots.