Amid a backdrop of athletes across the country taking a knee during the national anthem, a Missouri college has unveiled a new, mandatory class that aims to stoke students’ “patriotic yearnings.”
The College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo., is now requiring all freshmen to enroll in its “Patriotic Education and Fitness” program, which aims to educate students on modern military customs, American politics, and flag protocol and procedures.
A public event was held at the Christian college on Monday to introduce the new course.
Terrence Dake, a board of trustees member for the college and a retired general with the U.S. Marine Corps, said he believes the class will “plant a seed that will grow within (students),” according to Ozarks First.
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“I really think that if you give a person the tools of an education, the patriotic yearnings inside of themselves, and the leadership tools that can be taught — they will be leaders,” he said.
Aside from lessons on American politics, the military and flag norms, students will learn rifle marksmanship, map reading, land navigation and rope knotting. Students also must be able to run a mile and will engage in other physical education activities.
“If they get their physical fitness under control, it will serve them in all the areas of their lives,” Dake said.
College of the Ozarks President Jerry Davis, after bowing with students in prayer, said he believes “understanding the military now is more important than ever because we have 99 percent of the population being defended by 1 percent, who are in uniform,” according to the Springfield News-Leader. “We should be more intentional about patriotic education, and from our point of view that needs to occur from kindergarten all the way through college.”
Davis added: “Patriotic education is not inherited. It must be taught, it must be modeled and it must be emphasized.”
Talan Saylor, a freshman from Illinois at the college, told the News-Leader that the class is building camaraderie among students.
“We all go through kind of the same thing, so going through a patriotic class where we are learning about our country and fostering a love for that country together is really special,” he said.
In September, the school announced its “No pledge, No Play” policy, which states the school’s athletic teams would not compete against other teams whose players or coaches do not stand during the playing of the national anthem.
“We want to make it clear that we are not going to participate in a game where we think disrespect for the national anthem or the flag is being displayed,” Davis told The Star. “I don’t think it’s a partisan issue. It’s an American issue, how we feel about our country.”
The policy was a response to protests that started in 2016 with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. The anthem protests have continued this season.
The College of the Ozarks was named the most unfriendly school for LGBT students in a Princeton Review survey released in August.