WASHINGTON, March 9 -
Mr. Speaker, this morning on the west lawn of this fine building, the Capitol of the United States, I participated in the National Anthem Project. Sponsored by the National Association For Music Education and supported by its honorary Chair, First Lady Laura Bush, as well as Jeep, Chrysler, Save America's Treasures, the Girl Scouts of America, the NBA, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Education Association, the American Legion and many, many more, this 3-year project will get America singing our national anthem again, the "Star-Spangled Banner,'' proudly and strongly singing it again and will help people understand the important role that music classes play in teaching our culture.
During the most forgotten American war, the War of 1812, some say the second American revolution, between the United States and England, the British invaded the United States and they torched this city, Washington, consuming numerous public buildings, including the White House and this Capitol, leaving it, as they said, in a most magnificent ruin.
Next on their list was the city of Baltimore, not far from here. They attempted to attack Baltimore by sea. American forces under the command of Colonel George Armistead defended Baltimore in the harbor with Fort McHenry standing in the way of the British and Baltimore, and they thwarted this destruction by the British.
A young lawyer on a British ship trying to seek the release of a friend watched this 25-hour British naval bombardment of Fort McHenry throughout the night, and the next morning he saw the largest United States flag he had ever seen flying at dawn and inspired this young lawyer by the name of Francis Scott Key to write the words that later became our national anthem. He watched the flag fly as the British ships left the harbor in defeat.
Yet, Mr. Speaker, the lyrics to the "Star-Spangled Banner'' that we have officially called our national anthem for 75 years are foreign to many of our citizens. According to a Harris poll, fewer than 30 percent of American children can sing this patriotic song. This is somewhat tragic. We must revive America's heritage starting by equipping our Nation's music teachers with the resources they need to preserve our tradition in freedom, freedom in song.
Unfortunately, when budget cuts are made in the area of education, music classes in schools across the country are the first to be asphyxiated. But considering that so much of our history is chronicled through songs, songs like the "Star-Spangled Banner,'' and that three out of four Americans cite music class in their public school as the primary place they learn about American history, how can we let this trend continue? Are we going to deprive future generations of Americans the vibrant spirit of our land?
Cicero, the Roman orator, author, and politician, once said: "Not to know what has been transacted in former times is always to remain a child. If no use is made of the labors of the past, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge.'' And even though he warned us about the tragedy of this apathy of history, we have deserted our commitment to the far-reaching study of civics, civics education and American history in these United States. We must ask ourselves how many of our students can identify such names as John Paul Jones, Susan B. Anthony, Paul Revere, and Nathan Hale.
To answer this question, we have to examine where a number of the curricula in our Nation's classrooms begin the American tale. Now, in many American classrooms they do not start American history with the American Revolution. They start it with World War II to the present. They just do not have enough time, according to educators. So how can we blame our young children who become our young leaders if they do not know our history?
Moreover, according to the Fordham Institute, which seeks to focus on effective education reforms, few history teachers ever learn much history themselves. More than half of high school history teachers did not major or even minor in history in college. As a result, teachers charged with imparting information to young Americans about the history of their country and the history of the world rely on the textbooks available to them, often textbooks that the teachers themselves had little to do with selecting or reading. At some places in the United States we still use coaches to teach history.
Mr. Speaker, this state of affairs is why I am proud to support campaigns like the National Anthem Project and encourage my fellow Americans to help us regain our appreciation for this legacy. Luckily, I come from Texas where the knowledge of our State's history is not neglected, but hallowed. In fact, State standards mandate the study of Texas history first in the fourth grade and then more comprehensively in the seventh grade. Lone Star students among other topics learn about the Texas Revolution, the establishment of the Republic of Texas, and subsequent annexation to the United States.
As my colleague Senator ROBERT BYRD has said, "An American student regardless of his race, religion or gender must know the history of the land to which they pledge allegiance. They should be taught about the Founding Fathers of this Nation, the battles they fought, the ideals that they championed, and the influences they have made throughout the world. They should be taught about our Nation's failures, our mistakes, our inequities. Without this knowledge, they cannot appreciate the hard-won freedoms that are our birthright.''
So, Mr. Speaker, to reclaim and be the home of the brave and the land of the free, as our "Star-Spangled Banner'' recites, we must learn our history, know our history, teach our history to our kids and be proud of our history; and we must get America singing about the United States of America.