April 18, 2024 12:38 pm

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McCune’s ‘Understanding the Pledge’ bill receives committee hearing

OLYMPIA—On Thursday, January 25, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee held a hearing on SB-6205, Sen. Jim McCune’s measure to require school districts to offer instruction in the meaning and history of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“This is a bill that was brought to me by some very bright and thoughtful students from my district,” said McCune, R-Graham and a member of the committee. “In these divisive times, it was genuinely refreshing to hear these students talk about what the pledge means to them – how it can be a unifying force for all citizens and a way to honor our country, our shared national values and the legacy and sacrifice of our veterans.

“But as they rightfully pointed out, this can only be the case if students actually understand the words and phrases they are compelled to recite.”

Pledge bill
Sen. Jim McCune (behind girl in red shirt) and teacher Alex Hansen with Eatonville Middle School students and parents. SOURCE: SENATOR JIM McCUNE.

Under Senate Bill 6205, school districts would have to offer instruction in the meaning and history of the Pledge of Allegiance, starting no later than the 2025-26 school year. Instruction would be offered once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school.

To the degree possible, the bill would require the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to make curricular resources related to the meaning and history of the Pledge of Allegiance available in the library of openly licensed courseware.

McCune said the legislation was the idea of students at Eatonville Middle School. They were inspired by their teacher, Alex Hansen, who tasked them with researching the words of the pledge and then preparing a presentation to younger students.

Pledge bill
Eatonville Middle School Student Blake Pool testifying in support of SB 6205. SOURCE: Snapshot from video hearing on TVW.

“What is the purpose of our state law requiring all public schools to have a daily flag ritual, which includes reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?” asked eighth-grader Blake Pool. “Whatever your answer is, do you think that purpose is being achieved simply by requiring the pledge be recited? We don’t think so, and that is the problem we are here to bring to your attention.”

Troy Smith, a seventh-grader, told the committee that failure to educate students about the words of the pledge will lead to a lack of appreciation of and respect for it.

“We require the pledge to be recited because it is the heart and soul of our founding documents, of what our founding fathers established and of our country’s most important principles,” Smith explained. “Why then, when students say it, do they say it disrespectfully, in a monotone voice, barely sparing it a thought? Because it means nothing to them. Without knowing the meaning, students will never understand why the pledge is so important.

“But this can change. By passing Senate Bill 6205 you give students the knowledge and the power to say the pledge respectfully because they can embrace its meaning and purpose.”

Sen. Jeff Wilson, who is lead Republican on the Senate State Government and Elections Committee and one of McCune’s fellow Senate Freedom Caucus members, said he is proud to co-sponsor the bill.

“We get asked in politics to make many pledges, but the only one I feel comfortable in making is the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Wilson, R-Longview. “We’ve all been saying it since we were kids, but how often do we stop to think about what it really means? The more emphasis we place in our schools on our nation’s founding principles, the better prepared our children will be to carry them on into the future.”

The education committee has until Wednesday, January 31, to advance the bill, for it to remain eligible for passage this session.

SOURCE: Office of Senator Jim McCune


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