LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska's youngest state senator wants to make sure the state's grade school children know their patriotism.
Sen. Phil Erdman of Bayard, 24, introduced a bill Thursday that requires schools to encourage students to read the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg address and the published records of the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I do think we can do a better job educating our kids about America," Erdman said from inside his state Capitol office, which is decorated inside and out with American flag posters.
It is even more important following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that children know their history and what separates them as Americans, Erdman said.
"We need to make sure our kids know why they are free," he said Thursday while wearing a necktie with the U.S. flag on it.
Erdman's proposal makes changes to a state patriotism law passed in 1949 following World War II that requires schools to teach reverence for the flag, the dangers of Communism and the lyrics to patriotic songs like the "Star-Spangled Banner."
It also requires schools to devote one hour a week to "the recital of stories having to do with American history or the deeds and exploits of American heroes."
Erdman's legislation, co-signed by 12 of Nebraska's 49 senators, requires students to be encouraged to read a number of documents defined as being "pertinent to understanding the principles, character, and world view of American's founders."
Those include the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Federalist Papers, Pledge of Allegiance, Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech, and President Lincoln's Gettysburg address.
Also listed are the writings, speeches, documents and proclamations of the country's founding fathers and the presidents of the United States, records of Congress and published decisions by the Supreme Court.
The State Board of Education last year voted to include specific references to the patriotism law in a school certification requirement. References to the law had been removed in an earlier draft, but were added after board members objected.
Not following the Americanism law is considered a dereliction of duty of the local school superintendent, school board and state Board of Education. The law says it is grounds for dismissal.