Like his adversary, Miss Narwin, Philip is a pawn in the drama he sets in motion by "refusing" to follow the school's rule of silence during the national anthem each morning in homeroom. What he really wants is to be transferred back into his old homeroom, where the teacher was a lot looser, and to pass English so he can be on his high school track team.
Instead, what he gets is a transfer to another school where he can be as "patriotic" as he likes, but where he knows no one. To top it all off, he discovers that his new school has no track team. Both Philip and Miss Narwin are sacrificed to an insatiable media frenzy and the petty posturing and politics of the school board and administration. It's enough to make anyone cry!
He actually didn't know the words, it was shown around the U.S. that he got suspended for "singing" it when he only hummed to it. Also adding the stress he has been in through out the story.