Who’s most patriotic?  

What’s the proper greeting when we celebrate the Fourth of July on July 3? ‘Happy Fourth’?’ Happy Third’? Or a safe, ‘Happy Independence Day’?  

I once greeted a Canadian with “Happy Independence Day,” then apologized. (Canadians celebrate on July 1.) 

She replied, “When you live on Salt Spring Island, as I do, every day is Independence Day.”

I liked that–a quiet salute to independence each day.

Our forefather’s declaration that all “are created equal” and that governments draw their power “from the consent of the governed” demonstrated a loving trust in the goodness of all people. The signers may never have imagined the extent of the changes Americans would mold to live up to these principles, but they laid the groundwork. 

The right of everyone to vote was just the beginning. Interracial marriage become legal nationwide in 1967, and states have been required to allow women on juries since 1975. We still struggle with issues like who is allowed to serve in the military, do citizens have the rights of initiative and referendum, and what discrimination is allowed against previous felons. Still, we share a principle.   

One surprising and pleasing discovery I made this week was a report ranking Idaho first in the nation in civics education and 12th in overall patriotism (https://wallethub.com/edu/most-patriotic-states/13680). Unfortunately, Wallethub reports give little detail on measurements used.

But additional research turned up a 2018 report by the Center for American Progress on  civics education supported Idaho’s high ranking (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2018/02/21/446857/state-civics-education/).

It wasn’t due to our daily recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance”–schools in 44 other states required that also. Nor was it the 40% of our youth, ages 18-24, who voted–19 states did better.  

Our standing was helped by Idaho requiring a full year of civics education–only nine states do so–and our requiring students to pass the test required of new citizens–only 16 states require any civics exam.  

But it’s Idaho’s social studies standards that counted most.  Civics instruction was included in every grade. (For example, third graders were to learn the different methods we use in choosing local government officials.) The Center saw this as preparing students to benefit most from a detailed and rigorous 12th grade curriculum.

With that first place in civics, Idaho outranks 14th-place Washington and 46th-place California in Wallethubs’ list of America’s Most Patriotic States. 

First-place Montana leads the nation in “civic engagement,” based on nine rankings on rates of voting in 2020, volunteering, jury participation, and membership in civic organizations as well as civics education.  

Second place went to Alaska, which has the highest rate of military service. 

Idaho ranks 12th and 16th.   

I don’t think patriotism is measurable, but, pressured to give a ranking, I know I’d do it differently. 

I’d include voter participation in non-presidential and local elections. Loyalty to the country should include fulfilling responsibilities at all levels, not just national ones, 

And I’d skip jury duty. Jurors don’t have much choice in the matter. Is a person who’s dismissed for having been the victim of a crime, any less patriotic?

And national organizations aren’t the only ones indicating civic involvement.  Many Idahoans concentrate on working together on local projects without considering whether their organization has lobbyists in D.C.  

But no estimate of patriotism will be accurate until we find a way to measure the ability of citizens to recognize the rights of others, to accept compromise, and to demand and respect the truth.  

May your Independence Day this year include reflection and gratitude for the freedoms we share.  

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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