HOUSTON - As summer comes to an end and students head back to school, they will notice some old and time-honored traditions returning with them. As a result of Governor Rick Perry signing Senate Bill 83 following the 78th Legislative Session, Texas public school days will now begin with pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags and the observance of a moment of silence. Although the law does not go into effect until September 1, many schools will go ahead with the new procedure as classes begin this week.
I am proud to have been a sponsor of this new law in the House during the last legislative session, along with Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas) and Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio). Together we worked hard to gain Democrat and Republican support that lead to the bill's overwhelming passage of 132-4. Reciting the pledge and reflecting for a moment each school day adds a tone of seriousness to the day. Far from trivial, this law will add to the teachers' ability to be effective in the classroom by focusing the children's attention on the educational endeavors upon which they are about to embark.
The Texas Education Code states that "a primary purpose" of the public school curriculum is to prepare "thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism." It also requires public schools to fly United States and Texas flags each day school is in session. If we require schools to fly the U.S. and Texas flags, it only makes sense to acknowledge them as part of a curriculum that teaches patriotism.
Many schools have maintained the tradition of reciting the Pledge, although until now it was not required. The new law protects the right of parents who do not want their children to recite the Pledge by allowing for a written excuse from a parent or guardian. Whether or not students choose to participate, the time spent during this exercise will remind them how privileged we all are to live in the greatest state in the most blessed nation in the world.
The moment of silence will likely be a new experience for both students and teachers - and I believe it will be a positive one. The new law defines this period as time during which a student may choose to reflect or engage in any silent activity that does not interfere with another student. This is time set aside when students can gather their thoughts and reflect on the day ahead. They can take a moment to reflect on a purpose higher than self, or pause to remember the men and women in our armed forces who are working to keep us safe. Others may even find the time useful for one last chance to study or rest before the school day begins. However students choose to use the time, both teachers and parents have acknowledged the value of solitude in an otherwise hectic day.
This legislation is simple, yet it is profound and far-reaching. More than four million Texas school children will be reciting daily pledges and having a moment of silence as they return to school this month. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from these activities, and the benefit to our children should not be underestimated. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "The philosophy of the classroom today will be the philosophy of the government tomorrow."
Children are moldable and teachable, and that's what we as adults should be doing - teaching them civic literacy embodied in such things as the flag. It is consistent with the Education Code requirements to teach patriotism. The Texas and U.S. flags represent the values of freedom and justice, of honor and liberty. This is a thoughtful step in the education process of our children, and I believe it's the right thing to do.
-Representative Dwayne Bohac (R-District 138)