Children of the world and national anthems.
September 16, 2009 12:43 AM   Subscribe

In primary/elementary schools of other countries, is it mandatory for children to sing the national anthem?

Just want to know how kids in other countries learn their national anthems. Would be curious to know if some places are mandatory to sing it every morning until a certain age or if it is regional/school district dependent or if it is up to the teacher, however patriotic he or she may be.
posted by querty to Society & Culture (65 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In the UK: I don't believe I've ever been required to sing or learn the national anthem in my life. I don't think most people know any more of it than the first line. "God Save the Queen" is hardly a patriotic anthem of any modern relevance.
posted by emilyw at 12:54 AM on September 16, 2009

At school we didn't sing "God Defend New Zealand" except in assemblies once a week, and even then you didn't have to sing, it was just sort of expected.
posted by fearthehat at 1:03 AM on September 16, 2009

Yep - we sang 'Advance Australia Fair' every Thursday in assembly.
posted by goo at 1:03 AM on September 16, 2009

But I don't think it was mandatory - as fearthehat says it was more just expected. Is it mandatory in the US (where I'm assuming the OP is from)?
posted by goo at 1:05 AM on September 16, 2009

I grew up in Brazil in the 80's and I went to a private school and I remember singing it at least once a month if not more. It was pretty common for us then, not sure now. But we wanted to learn it because of the soccer games. Didn't want to be the only ones who didn't know the words when it was sung before every international match. (And the Brazilian national anthem is long....)
posted by dealing away at 1:13 AM on September 16, 2009

I don't recall singing the national anthem at my (fairly stuffy and snobbish) high school more than a few times a year, usually for events like ANZAC day.

We did, however, have a school song. And a school haka. The trauma...
posted by rodgerd at 1:22 AM on September 16, 2009

I certainly remember singing the national anthem quite often in primary school. Most New Zealand kids of primary school age know the first two verses of God Defend New Zealand in English and Maori.

I highly doubt it's compulsory, but I also can't really imagine little kids objecting to doing it?
posted by sycophant at 1:26 AM on September 16, 2009

To add to what emailyw said, the only exposure most people in the UK get to the national anthem is at international football matches and the olympic games. It also used to be played when the BBC channels closed at night. Any I'd agree that almost nobody knows the words.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:29 AM on September 16, 2009

At school we didn't sing "God Defend New Zealand" except in assemblies once a week, and even then you didn't have to sing, it was just sort of expected.

Once a week? More like once a year at all the schools I went to! The anthem was saved for prizegiving and the like, regular patriotism didn't happen (other singing definitely did). The guys I know that went to private schools sang it more often but they did hymns and stuff too (which I did not), so there's definitely variation.

I don't know if I could ever get through the whole of the first two verses totally unprompted but I learnt the tune fairly young, and am definitely able to mumble along with a group. I didn't learn the Maori version which is sad, I rather like it.
posted by shelleycat at 1:48 AM on September 16, 2009

I never once had to sing Advance Australia Fair. Waltzing Matilda was more common but in a folk music/history class context rather than at school assemblies.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 1:58 AM on September 16, 2009

I'd agree that almost nobody knows the words.

Blimey. Really? Everyone I know knows the first verse at least. It's not exactly hard to remember.

But he only place I can recall it being sung (apart from the footy) was in the cubs. But that was a very long time ago.

Maybe it's an age thing age. You young uns, no respect.

(NB: not a monarchist)
posted by ComfySofa at 2:19 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

It was not required in Soviet Union, but other things were mandatory, like joining communist scouts in.. 4th? 5th? grade. That meant that you had to wear a red tie and a star sign on your uniform, but nothing else as far as I can remember. That was late 80s, though, it might have been very different before Gorbie!
posted by rainy at 2:42 AM on September 16, 2009

Brazil: The private school my son will be going to does the anthem once a week. And as dealing away said, it's long. Crazy long. It will take him a lifetime to learn all the lyrics.

Growing up in Canada we had O Canada piped in over the intercom every morning and God Save the Queen at the end of the day. Singing was, more or less, optional but when you're a kid you just kind of go along with it. Then there was this one crazy teacher. He MADE us sing and do sign language along with the anthem.
posted by wallaby at 2:47 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

FWIW I am American and went to public schools in the Midwest United States and was never once required to sing the national anthem. They'd make us say the pledge of Alliegence but only when I was very young. We almost never said it in middle school/jr. high and by high school it was all but forgotten. I don't think it's common practice to sing the national anthem in school each morning in the U.S., but I could be wrong.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:59 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Side note really from the Scotland: As a kid at private school in the 70s and 80s I can recall being asked to sing all kinds of stuff - but never God Save the Queen (wikipedia link with lots of info about when it is sung). The one time I remember if being played is when the BBC TV stations shut down at night. In Britain the national anthem had a verse added to it about "crushing" the Scots at the time of the Jacobite uprising of 1745 and people have not forgotten. My American wife became a British citizen this year and had to sing the national anthem at that ceremony. The queen sends an official representative of hers to attend these ceremonies - and this guy guy turned out to be a pretty good tenor.
posted by rongorongo at 3:17 AM on September 16, 2009

I know you're asking about non US-ian traditions, but I thought I'd chime in with info on what happens/happened in American schools around the country (and a few overseas). I've attended my fair share.

1. Oklahoma: We learned and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. No daily anthem-singing was required, though I believe we did learn The Star-Spangled Banner in kindergarten.
2. Maryland (DC area): Pledge. No anthems.
3. Germany (two separate US military bases): We recited the pledge, sang My Country 'Tis of Thee every morning, and learned and sang other patriotic songs in music class. For some reason, we did not sing the anthem very often at all. But every classroom was outfitted with a handsome flag and lots of other patriotic paraphernalia. Oh, and the anthem was played on the base at ... five p.m. (?) daily, over loudspeakers. You didn't hear it if you were in the residential sections of the installations, but if you were near the actual office buildings, it was very audible. The soldiers were required to stop and stand at attention for it, I believe. I vaguely remember being confused by my father stopping and taking off his hat while we were in the middle of a parking lot. I could be wrong about this last bit, but of this I am sure: we definitely did not sing the anthem in school every day.
4. Mississippi: My first experience with singing the national anthem every day. Pledge. Hand over heart, the works. Mandatory.
5. New York: The national anthem was rarely sung. Someone recited the pledge over the PA every morning, but no one even bothered to stand for it. Kids just remained seated and silent. I remember standing up and reciting the pledge and looking like a total dork, and then asking the other kids about it. They told me that the school district was not allowed to force students to recite the pledge or even to stand for it. Until then, I'd honestly thought reciting the pledge was legally mandatory. We were required -- I think -- to stand when the national anthem was sung. Maybe that's just at baseball games, though.

All in all, I went to school in ... eight districts. Students only sang the national anthem daily in one, but we were required to recite the pledge daily in all but the last. In Mississippi it would have been heretical to refuse to stand during the pledge or the anthem. In New York it would have been bizarre to stand and recite the pledge of your own volition, with no teacher enforcing it.
posted by brina at 3:26 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't know about the national anthem, but many states require schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Like Harlequin, I find this very disturbing.
posted by marsha56 at 3:40 AM on September 16, 2009

They still play the National Anthem here in the UK when Radio 4 hands over to the World Service at midnight.

I went to a secular primary school in Edinburgh in the eighties where we sang assembly songs like The Ink is Black, The Page is White and a load of hymns where they'd stripped out 'God' in most of them and put in 'Love' instead.

Didn't sing the national anthem once. Used to sing 'Flower of Scotland' at rugby matches though. Still do in fact.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:43 AM on September 16, 2009

I'm British, but lived in Pennsylvania for four and a half years where I attended a local school. As a 9-13 year old Brit, the pledge and the singing of America the Beautiful always struck me as a bit strange, but more of a waste of time than much else. To be fair I was always told that as a non citizen I could sit it out (although as a ten year old, it's far easier to conform even if you don't believe).

Anyhow, I moved back to the UK where I've never seen anthems sung or pledges taken at schools and overt patriotism (and overt religiosity) is considered all a bit embarrassing. There are plenty of things that are wrong with the UK, but a lack of widespread bellicose patriotism is one of its nicer traits.

I suppose looking back the American way does seem rather odd - and has echoes of some of histories less savory regimes - but as a kid, you just take these things as they come. I can still recite the pledge by heart.
posted by rhymer at 3:47 AM on September 16, 2009

As an American, in elementary school in the 70s, I chose not to say the flag because (to my young logic) we did not have "liberty and justice for all." This was accepted by the teachers; they only asked that we stand when the pledge was said, out of respect for the tradition. It was never mandatory, just something kids did because everyone was doing it. I don't believe that's changed, at least in my part of the world -- it's not required, but it is a social more or custom that just goes unquestioned by most of the participants.
posted by Houstonian at 4:02 AM on September 16, 2009

At my Primary and High schools they played Advance Australia Fair for us to sing at a dirge tempo, both verses, once a week at assembly. Then, at high school, the school song, Gaudeamus Igitur, the Ode to Joy and sometimes Waltzing Matilda.

Looking back now I think it was mostly to take up more time that would have to have been filled by casual teachers.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:26 AM on September 16, 2009

When I spent a semester in Mexico I taught English at a local elementary school during the week. Every Tuesday was the "Dia de Patria" -- "patrotism day," roughly -- where a group of sixth graders selected as a color guard marched the country and local flags around the courtyard while the entire school was lined up, then they all sang the national anthem (and maybe there was a state anthem? I can't remember). Anyway, every single one of those kids knew the words, and it was an honor to be selected for the color guard. They even practiced marching during recess during the other days of the week.

In the US, we said the pledge of allegience every day in elementary school during morning announcements (as a fifth grader, on your birthday, you got to be the one to lead it over the PA system), and in middle/high school -- when I switched schools -- we said it at each weekly assembly. The only time I ever sang (or currently sing) the national anthem is at sporting events.
posted by olinerd at 4:28 AM on September 16, 2009

In Japan, the kids in public schools don't sing it every morning, but it's still sung on occasions like entrance and graduation ceremonies. My son tells me it's also played while the flag is being raised before events like the annual sports festival (undokai). (As an aside, most Japanese schools have school songs (koka), too.)

In the past several years there have been incidents regarding public school teachers who refuse to stand and/or sing the national anthem during these occasions actually being fired from their jobs. I personally think it's crazy and that as a free country anyone should have the right to do whatever the heck they want with a song, including letting the schools themselves decide whether or not to play it. But it's a touchy subject because the lyrics of the Japanese anthem is so directly linked to the Emperor (= Imperialism and militarism of the past) and I really can't see a way around the problem except to maybe change the national anthem altogether. Get Hayao Miyazaki to write the new lyrics or something.

I'm British, but lived in Pennsylvania for four and a half years where I attended a local school. As a 9-13 year old Brit, the pledge and the singing of America the Beautiful always struck me as a bit strange, but more of a waste of time than much else. To be fair I was always told that as a non citizen I could sit it out (although as a ten year old, it's far easier to conform even if you don't believe).

Me, too. I was raised in various states (Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi) in the US during the 70s and 80s, and as I recall the public schools I attended sang the national anthem and recited the pledge of allegiance every morning. Yes, thirtysomething years later I can still sing the American national anthem and recite the pledge of allegiance. Brainwashing, indeed.
posted by misozaki at 4:32 AM on September 16, 2009

In Iceland I never sang the national anthem as a child. In fact, I've never ever sung the national anthem with a large group of people (other patriotic songs, sure, but never the anthem). The national anthem is reserved for very special occasions, though that may be that it's nearly impossible to sing for a non-trained singer. As a result few people know the words to the first verse (the one usually sung) and I don't think I know anyone who knows all three verses by heart.

On the other hand, any alterations to the national anthem, parody versions, artistic reinterpretations, non-traditional renditions, are illegal (punishable by up to two years in prison, though I can't think of anyone who's ever gone to jail for it).
posted by Kattullus at 4:32 AM on September 16, 2009

The only time during primary school where I "had" to sing a national anthem, it wasn't even my own - it was on a field trip to a historical school site where we all dressed up in costume and pretended to be 19th century schoolchildren complete with compulsory singing of God Save the Queen.

In my NZ school, we rarely sang the national anthem - just at prizegiving, once a year, and occasional other special events. I'm pretty sure I learned Advance Australia Fair before I learned God Defend New Zealand. I quite often just mouthed the words to GDNZ, not because I didn't like the anthem (I do, especially the Maori part) but because I'm fairly shy about any sort of singing in public. I doubt anybody ever got in trouble for not singing it, although that may have been because the only time we ever sang it were times when it wasn't all that practical for the teachers to tell us off.

Boyfriend went to primary school in Australia and says it was mandatory to sing the national anthem at weekly assembly unless one had a religious objection. He once didn't sing and did indeed get in trouble for it.
posted by lwb at 4:37 AM on September 16, 2009

Ontario, Canada - Oh Canada every morning from grade K to 12. (and as a teacher, for the next 30 years of my life)
posted by davey_darling at 4:38 AM on September 16, 2009

When I was a kid in New Zealand the local movie theatre played God Save the Queen before every movie and I think most people stood up for it. That was back in the '60s before God Defend NZ took over as the national anthem.

We only sang it on special occasions at school.

BTW, I believe New Zealand is one of the few countries that has two national anthems. I think God Save the Queen is still an official anthem but only used at events if the Queen is present.

It always seems fortunate that Queen and King are both one syllable words otherwise the song would get messed up when the monarch changes.
posted by tetranz at 5:03 AM on September 16, 2009

Ah, Ontario has changed? Neither I nor DDs every sang or heard O Canada at school in the morning. Of course, I'm so old that I used to hear the now deemed politically incorrect The Maple Leaf Forever at school during assembly before we sang O Canada. Have to say I prefer the old anthem and wish they'd stop changing the lyrics to O Canada so we'd all be singing the same version.
posted by x46 at 5:03 AM on September 16, 2009

I don't know about the national anthem, but many states require schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

My understanding is that due to a Supreme Court ruling, schools in the US are not allowed to compel children to say the pledge of allegiance. And that jibes with my experience; at my high school the pledge was certainly spoken over the loudspeaker during the morning announcements, but it was also completely ignored by all of as students as we sat at our desks and talked amongst ourselves.
posted by av123 at 5:17 AM on September 16, 2009

I grew up in the US Upper Midwest. We learned the national anthem (and a bunch of other patriotic songs) as part of music class in elementary school, and we sang them all at the 5th grade concert and at a school assembly, but I don't recall ever singing it as part of the daily routine. It was played over the speaker system on Election Day and other nationally important days (Veteran's Day, the Friday before Memorial Day, Inauguration Day, etc), and when you reached 4th/5th grade you were expected to sing along, but the teacher didn't prowl the room to check.

We did the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of the school day, but it was as much as a marker of "OK, settle down, school has started" as anything else. I don't recall anyone ever sitting it out (other than the Jehovah's Witnesses), but I'm fairly sure there were kids who mumbled along, or just mouthed the words. My kids did the pledge at elementary school assemblies (every couple of weeks), and daily for a week or two at the beginning of the school year, just to refresh everybody's memory (and as a marker of the school day beginning). They've not done it since they left 5th or 6th grade.
posted by jlkr at 5:29 AM on September 16, 2009

My answer touches on both national anthems and the Pledge of Allegiance and Japan's Imperial Rescript on Education. Please bear with me.

In the US reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is more common. Here is a short, fascinating history. Who would have known a Baptist socialist activist wrote it in the 1890s? To sell flags to schools for a flag company? Ha!

This is one of common early practice before the rise of Nazi Germany. The hand over the heart form practiced today was adopted to avoid Fascist overtones in the 1930s.

In Japan before 1945, reciting, or bowing as the teacher recited, the Imperial Rescript on Education, was mandatory. Teachers could and did lose their jobs if they refused to do so.

The Pledge of Allegiance and Imperial Rescript on Education were products of the 1890s. This was a time when both the US and Japan were trying to secure a place for themselves on the international stage. Creating a national culture with "traditional" customs was part of that project. I know you asked specifically about national anthems, but I discovered the similarities between these two recitations, and teach my college students about this moment using them.

As for national anthems, Japan only recently adopted an official one, Kimi ga yo (君が代). In the last decade this has caused a lot of controversy in schools. The "Protocol" and "Controversy" sections of this wikipedia article discuss the intricacies of the debate. You can listen to Kimi ga yo here. It might be useful to know that the Teachers Union in Japan tends to be farther to the left than its US counterpart.

Finally, Texas. Albeit Texas is not a nation-state, it clings to some trappings of a nation. Children, at least in the 1980s, attended monthly flag ceremonies at which we sang patriotic songs. Afther the National Anthem, the repertoire focused on songs about Texas like "Texas, Our Texas," "Giant," and "The Yellow Rose of Texas." At least that was the case in my suburban middle class Houston school district.

Only after I moved to another state did I realize that Texas was not normal.
posted by vincele at 5:31 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

same experience, pretty much, as rongorongo: Scotland, private school 70s-80s. Seem to remember the national anthem perhaps on remembrance day - many of us sang Flower of Scotland (or discovered how hilariously well the words "Fuck Off" fitted) to the tune of God Save The Queen.

It seems that in New Brunswick, Canada, not singing every day will get you death threats. What's with these new countries and their insecurities? ;-)
posted by scruss at 5:45 AM on September 16, 2009

Worth noting for non-USAians that public school practices in the U.S. can vary widely from state to state and between different school districts (local governance units) in the same state, if that hasn't come through already. Many things that are governed at the national level in Europe are handled at the state or local level in the U.S.
posted by gimonca at 5:50 AM on September 16, 2009

I'll see your mandatory pledge and raise you the Lord's Prayer. In my school district in subn Philly in the 60s ALL children were required to recite the Lord's Prayer, daily. Children who did not recite it were ridiculed and punished. My non-Christian parents raised a stink and were forever after branded communist agitators. My mother lost her brownie troop. My brother was forced to stand on a desk while all the other children recited. I was sent out of the room, every day, "because nax doesn't believe in god, isn't that sad?"

Don't recall having to sing the national anthem, though.
posted by nax at 5:51 AM on September 16, 2009

In my school in Wales, we sung "Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau", the Welsh national anthem, once a week. It got phased out by the time we were 9 or 10. It was on a school-by-school basis, the other nearby school didn't.

Very rarely were we required to sing "God Save The Queen". (And I wouldn't when asked to)
posted by at 5:57 AM on September 16, 2009

Actually, Houstonian, as of 2003 Texas schoolchildren are required to say both the US and the Texas pledges of allegiance (Honor the Texas flag, I pledge allegiance to thee Texas, one and indivisible) every day unless they have a note from their parents. Almost certainly unconstitutional, but it hasn't been overturned yet.
When I was in school in Houston in the 80s and 90s, there was no anthem. Ever, that I can remember, except at football games and graduations. Certainly not that we were expected to sing. Which is good, because the US anthem is quite difficult for many kids to sing.
The pledge was recited every day but, like Houstonian, I stopped saying it very early on. First in about second grade I would stand there with my hand over my heart but not say the words; later in junior high I would just stand politely but not even go through the motions. Don't remember anyone giving me trouble about it, although my mother was somewhat concerned that the teachers might hassle me for it.
posted by katemonster at 6:15 AM on September 16, 2009

Wow, in my American (private) school, I don't remember ever once saying the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the national anthem. Even after 9/11. I didn't even really know what the national anthem was until 2nd or 3rd grade.

But then, I grew up in Massachusetts, where health-insured atheist abortionists gay-marry each other constantly.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:16 AM on September 16, 2009

I used to go to primary school in the Philippines and we would have to sing the national anthem every morning. In addition, one of us would have to walk with the folded flag to the pole and then we would take it down at the end of the day.
posted by SRMorris at 6:20 AM on September 16, 2009

FWIW I am American and went to public schools in the Midwest United States and was never once required to sing the national anthem. They'd make us say the pledge of Alliegence but only when I was very young.

My experience was the same.
posted by Bunglegirl at 6:26 AM on September 16, 2009

I second hearing the anthem every single school day over the PA in Ontario. Heard a lot of really crazy versions over the years! Disco instrumental versions, a capella, you name it. Only sang it in the younger grades (I think K-3, often in French just to mix it up I guess). As a teacher, the anthem is the official late marker: you're not in your seat (well, standing beside your seat quietly) by the first note of the anthem, you're late. No discussion. No, your bag being there doesn't count--it has to be you in person. Damn kids....
posted by Go Banana at 6:27 AM on September 16, 2009

Quebec - Canada. Never sang the national hymn at school, ever. Only before hockey games.
posted by ddaavviidd at 6:36 AM on September 16, 2009

I'm in TX. and I teach band at the high-school level (9th-12th grades). Every morning, as required by state law, we say the Pledge to the American Flag, Texas Flag, and have a moment of silence. The only time we have the National Anthem (which my band has to play), is at pep-rallys, and football games.

So the pledge is mandatory, but the anthem is rarely used.
posted by snoelle at 6:40 AM on September 16, 2009

UK: Never in Primary School. Never in secondary school.

Comfysofa - I think the reason lots of people don't remember the first verse is that there's a different adjective in each line, and they could come in any order. Whenever you hear crowds sining it always sounds like this:

"God save our mmmHnnnn Queen
God save our nnnnbhdhhh Queen
God save our ssfhguhhhhh Queen
God save our Queen"

And it's a boring dirge of a tune. Jerusalem would be a much better choice, not only melodically but because we could hold up little signs saying 'Obviously not' at the end of the weirdly rhetorical questions.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 6:52 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

At my public high school in the Cayman Islands, the bi-weekly school assemblies would generally feature some combination of the national anthem (God Save the Queen) and/or the national song. I don't know if any of it was legally required, or if it was just customary. Generally, as long as you stood and were respectful nobody cared if you sang along.

There was also usually either a recitation of the Lord's Prayer or something more extemporaneous. It was a bit weird, but I knew a few non-Christian students and teachers, and to my knowledge they were never singled out or made to feel uncomfortable.
posted by teraflop at 7:22 AM on September 16, 2009

I'm in Ontario too and the anthem was played at the start of school from K to OAC (Grade 1) when I was in school in the 70's-90's and when I worked in elementary and secondary schools over the next fifteen years.

Now my kids are in school and it plays every morning for them too. Seconding Go Banana's recollection of crazy versions, except for a few times the Bob and Doug LP was snuck on the PA. I can sing the English version all the way through but I always struggle with the French one - I don't know why since the bilingual one is the default anthem in school.
posted by saucysault at 7:30 AM on September 16, 2009

In the NJ parochial schools I attended, we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning (Kindergarten through high school) and it was basically mandatory. From grades K-8, we also sang "My Country Tis of Thee" or "America the Beautiful" every day, but never the national anthem (perhaps because it's harder to sing?). In the parochial high school where I teach now, the students say the Pledge every morning during announcements, but I don't think I've ever heard the anthem outside of sporting events like football and basketball.
posted by katie at 7:36 AM on September 16, 2009

Grew up in Los Angeles. Pledge of allegiance every morning in public elementary and jr. high. I don't think we had to do it in HS. I don't remember ever having to sing the national anthem.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:37 AM on September 16, 2009

I went to a different school almost every year in the seventies, public and private, all on the east coast of the US (until I ended up briefly at the American school of Mallorca by the early eighties) and we always said the pledge at every school, every year, even though by middle and high school nobody paid attention and I very daringly refused to say it, whoo, what a rebel. I don't remember ever singing the national anthem except sometimes at assemblies and sports things and then when we did sing, it was America the Beautiful a lot more than the Star Spangled Banner. I'm not sure why, although I do remember one music teacher once going off on what a difficult song the Banner was and how nobody without a fully trained voice should even attempt it and how his life had been embittered and made miserable by generations of children belting it out.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:39 AM on September 16, 2009

And two more data points: my son in Asheville elementary schools in the nineties learned and sang a different national anthem every month (O Canada was his favorite) and my daughter in Baltimore in the eighties and nineties sang Lift Every Voice and Sing (the black national anthem ) along with the Star Spangled Banner and My Country Tis of Thee at assemblies. (I forgot to mention My Country Tis of Thee earlier - we sang that one when I was a child just as much as America the Beautiful.)
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:46 AM on September 16, 2009

Manitoba, Canada: In elementary school in the mid- to late '80s, we sang "O Canada" at the beginning of every day and "God Save The Queen" at the end of every day. Our first-grade teacher, a kindly old woman, had us recite the Lord's Prayer as well; I don't remember doing it any year other than that, so I'm not sure whether there was a change in policy or whether just something that particular teacher liked to do. In junior high and senior high (early '90s), "O Canada" was confined to assemblies, and "God Save The Queen" was mostly ignored.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:47 AM on September 16, 2009

I grew up in Pennsylvania - USA. We did the Pledge. Never never do I remember singing the National Anthem. I'm sure we learned it in music class at some point, but it was never shoved down our throats.

I now have children that are growing up in the Southwest - USA. Same thing . . . they say the pledge . . . no singing whatsoever. In fact, last week the school had a flag raising ceremony in remembrance of September 11. The kids sang My Country Tis of Thee, Grand Old Flag and a few other patriotic songs. No national anthem, though. Patriotic singing is not and in my experience was not done unless the occasion was patriotic in nature.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:52 AM on September 16, 2009

I also have a vague memory of O Canada playing before the movie in cinemas when I was a child in the seventies but I could be wrong about that. I remember most people stood and I was schocked to see someone sitting during it.
posted by saucysault at 8:00 AM on September 16, 2009

Spanning one and a half-octaves, the US national anthem is pretty hard to sing, which is why schools were more likely to require "My Country 'Tis of Thee"--which, curiously, uses the same music as God Save the Queen.

My kids in elementary school still do the pledge of aliegiance.
posted by eye of newt at 8:06 AM on September 16, 2009

Singing "Oh Canada" was done in my elementary school (rural, northern Alberta) but was not mandatory. There were several Jehovah's Witness students in my class who sat during the national anthem and the fact that they were not participating was just as normal as the fact that the rest of us were.

My dad, who went to the same school 30 years earlier, did not sing "Oh Canada" but instead sang "God Save the Queen". (Not the Sex Pistols version, natch. :P)
posted by Kurichina at 8:26 AM on September 16, 2009

I'm British, but lived in Pennsylvania for four and a half years where I attended a local school. As a 9-13 year old Brit, the pledge and the singing of America the Beautiful always struck me as a bit strange, but more of a waste of time than much else. To be fair I was always told that as a non citizen I could sit it out (although as a ten year old, it's far easier to conform even if you don't believe).

America the Beautiful is, sadly, not our national anthem; that would be the Star-Spangled Banner.

Hawaii, grades K-4: Pledge of Allegiance daily, and weekly at assembly the state song, Hawai'i Pono'i.

Oxford, England, and Paris, France, grade 5: Don't recall singing God Save the Queen, ever; in France, La Marseillaise once a week, I think.

Back in the U.S., grades 6-12, mostly in Brookline, MA: neither pledge nor anthem, though we had a moment of silence in homeroom every day, which was used for napping or studying by most people.

I go to a lot of baseball games and I don't stand for the national anthem, though I always applaud for whomever performs it - it takes a lot of guts to get up in front of 30-40 thousand people and do that song, especially singing it. My favorite version has been an instrumental one performed by a local Irish music trio that plays on Irish Days, though.
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on September 16, 2009

English posh private school - national anthem once a year to close the final assembly of the school year, segueing straight from the school song into the national anthem. Meaning that we'd completely lost interest at that point and it ended up as some sort of vague moaning noises. They once made us sing the whole lot (without the murdering Scottish people verse - I think that contrary to the comment above that was taken out at a later date, not put in). Half of the school had fallen asleep by the end. They never tried again.

Scottish standard high school - probably if asked at least half of the school would have answered "what is the national anthem?" with "Flower of Scotland". Neither that nor 'God Save the Queen' were ever sung in school.
posted by Coobeastie at 8:56 AM on September 16, 2009

As a kid (in the 80's, Toronto), we would sing O Canada every morning. Some kids wouldn't sing, sometimes it'd be in French and not everybody knew the French words, it was never a big deal. By the time I hit middle school (1991), we'd just stand and wait for it to be over. I never recall it being mandatory, just sort of expected but if you don't want to that's okay, we're Canadian that's how we do things.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:02 AM on September 16, 2009

At least in the state I live in Mexico, the national anthem is sung weekly in a small event where "the flag is honored". Here is a video with an example showing just that.
posted by edmz at 9:19 AM on September 16, 2009

When I started school in the early 80's in Saskatchewan it was - "Oh Canada", "God Save the Queen" and the Lord's Prayer (at a public school).

I rarely hear/sing "God Save the Queen" anymore though, and I'm pretty sure the Lord's Prayer is out of virtually all public functions.
posted by Deep Dish at 9:31 AM on September 16, 2009

Never sang it at primary or at secondary school, although I vaguely remember a half-hearted version of "God Save the Queen" being summoned at a Silver Jubilee party (1977) at my primary school.
posted by vickyverky at 11:02 AM on September 16, 2009


Every Monday we'd sing the national anthem, the state anthem, the school song, and one other patriotic song. Other mornings we'd just sing a random patriotic song.
posted by divabat at 3:06 PM on September 16, 2009

Attended a private school in Oklahoma up until the 8th grade. We were taught the national anthem in music class, but I can't remember ever being made to recite the Pledge. We did frequently perform the state song ("Oklahoma!", what else?) in recitals for parents though. I think that was just for the adults amusement when we made wild hand gestures for wind sweeping down plains, waving wheat, and other such shenanigans.
posted by fishmasta at 8:44 PM on September 16, 2009

Canada (I can speak for Ontario, Alberta, and Nova Scotia): Yep. O Canada, first thing every morning. My Jehovah's Witness friends got to sit it out, which is something I envied.

In Ontario, we had to recite the Lord's Prayer, too, in public school. That was back in the 80s; I really hope it's no longer the case.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:37 PM on September 17, 2009

(Also, what dnab said re: standing and waiting and not knowing the French lyrics. Exactly.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:39 PM on September 17, 2009

Attended public school until the new millennium, heard O Canada every single day. I thought all countries did this until very recently!

I also taught at a Korean school for a year and the anthem was sung at the beginning of every school week. I think the school song was sung more often than the anthem.
posted by Rora at 8:33 PM on September 17, 2009

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