Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pledge of Allegiance

It genuinely bothers me that saying the pledge of allegiance in public school classrooms can be controversial. It certainly was at my school, when on the first day of school a couple years ago the pledge was read over the announcements. The hue, cry, and holler from our staff was loud and it was violent. When I pointed out that state education code requires a daily patriotic exercise at each school each day, and that it specifically states that the saying of the pledge of allegiance satisfies that requirement (even though students are not required to speak or even to stand), one teacher got in my face and said rather loudly, "I will not allow the pledge of allegiance to be said in my classroom." People got so angry about this that our compromise was to have a "daily patriotic quote" read over the announcements each morning.

It seems that Sacramento isn't the only place that experiences this antipathy towards the pledge of allegiance. Are people really that upset about it, or has this issue become yet another faux "us vs. them" thing with liberals taking the "anti" side and conservatives taking the "pro" side?


mmazenko said...

Wow, that is truly surprising.

In Colorado state law states the "opportunity" must be given each day. At the start of third hour, a student invites the school to participate and recites the pledge. Anywhere from a few students to half my class usually joins in. The numbers literally change from day to day. However, the other students remain quite. I've never heard of complaints, though I have heard in some classrooms that the teacher says it alone each day.

I'm surprised it could be controversial as well. Though, the independent nature of Americans is live and well, and we don't like being told what to do - even something like the pledge.

Eric W. said...

I have no issue with the spirit of the pledge. However, I don't like the idea of a pledge of allegiance to the state being chanted mindlessly by the youth daily in government education facilities.

Anonymous said...

Give me some insight....I've taught in middle schools for many years and have never had colleagues who are like yours--and many other high school teachers--who are so anti-American. Is that a "high school teacher" thing? Do they think it makes them appear more intelligent/superior since they are "questioning authority"? Do they think they appear more worldly when they espouse communism and marxism and socialism?

Anonymous said...

Americans are losing the spirit of patriotism overall.
This is sad...and dangerous.
Our enemies will eventually exploit this weakness, and perhaps soon we will become The Late Great USA.
Our students have the pledge led by ASB students every morning over the loud speaker.
No one ever protests, but we are not the elitists such as those who live in Northern California.
Just a normal lower socio-economic, low performing, high mobility, second decile, free lunch public school.
Heck...what do we know!

Mike said...

So that teacher would not allow the pledge of allegiance to be said in his classroom?

Was he planning to tie down the students and tape their mouths shut? How can he legally stop someone from saying it?

Anonymous said...

"My classroom"? Excuse me? That classroom belongs to the people of California. Oh, that's right, that teacher probably believes that Comrade David Sanchez is the other "new messiah" and that his Communist Teachers Association are working in support of teachers, students, and parents.

Anonymous said...

Rio had been an excellent school by any measure for nearly forty years before the elementary school-style pledge was launched that first day of school a few years ago.

You'll recall that despite several faculty meetings before the start of the school year--meetings that went on for hours during which many insignificant topics were covered ad nauseum--no mention was made of this first-ever-at-Rio flag pledge. It was hatched without any notification, let alone faculty discussion.

And I'll refresh your memory further. The first call for everyone to rise and pledge came 20 minutes into 2nd period. From out of the blue!

Your turn to refresh my memory: in what way was reaction to the pledge at Rio "violent"?

I recall being publicly reprimanded for simply asking why it was done. I cast no judgment in making the inquiry; I simply asked "Why?" Nearly any explanation would have satisfied the inquiry. Instead it was announced I was out of line for posing the question.

The original, secular pledge was tainted with religion in the 1950s. That might have something to do with its loss of appeal. Not to worry, as our patriotic quotes have included the words of Billy Graham. If I get a spare moment, I'll submit something from Madelyn Murray O'Hair to restore balance.

Some no doubt see pledge recitation as akin to wearing American flag armbands to prove one's patriotism.

Darren said...

Eric, then don't chant it *mindlessly*.

Anonymous immediately above: this has nothing to do with the school being "good" or not. It has to do with whether or not we were following the law (we were not) and what the function of the public school is. It *used* to be that making "good citizens", teaching "citizenship", was a bedrock purpose of public schools--even and especially 40 years ago, when our school was also a good school. Perhaps we've "progressed" beyond that though, huh?

Submit a patriotic quote from whomever you like. As long as it's patriotic (towards *our* country), it doesn't matter much who says it.

Donalbain said...

Whenever I see the Pledge of Allegiance, I find it very creepy. The younger the kids saying it, the creepier I find it.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the other teachers will be more than happy with the new pledge. How does it go again? oh, yes:

We're going to spread happiness.
We're going to spread freedom
Obama's going to change it
Obama's going to lead...

Darren said...

Donalbain: God Save The Queen.

Anonymous said...

OK, so you're backing off the claim of a "violent" reaction. You really ought to clarify that.

Unknown said...

"The original, secular pledge was tainted with religion in the 1950s."

And I assume you think that the Declaration of Independence is similarly "tainted."

Anonymous said...

I voted for Obama, against prop. 8, believe a woman has the right to choose and would not mind serving in the military with openly gay people. When I hear that an instructor at a prestigious institution like Rio has the audacity to stand up in public and question why they allow students to express the smallest bit of patriotism in accordance with law, I am shocked and saddened at the poor state of professionalism that has “tainted” the school.

Forty years of excellence at Rio was built on the shoulders of great and patriotic men and women more concerned with the education of young minds rather than the political correctness of an American tradition. Why must you be notified that the school wants to abide by the law? Why must you need to discuss whether you can weasel out of your duty and warp young minds to your anti-American views. You were publicly reprimanded for simply asking why it was done and I say you deserved that and much more for doing so.

Some see the pledge akin to wearing armbands. Some do not see what is directly in front of them either, and take the right to see the pledge as an armband for granted.

Donalbain said...

Nobody I know *ever* says "God save the Queen". The only time the national anthem is sung is at sports games, and even then Scotland's (my team) is different!

Anonymous said...

If you are concerned about "mindless" might I recommend the Red Skelton essay on the pledge. ( I think it was him)

Anonymous said...


I guess I'm one of those who will throw off the whole lefty righty far-too-easy divide. I'm a middle school teacher in a Southern Californian charter school. Our school has every first period class say the pledge. I myself do not say the pledge (and neither do our children, two of whom attend the school) but I stand (and we teach our young children to stand); I'm fully aware that one of the stated purposes of public education is to inculcate good citizenship. If I had a big problem with that, I'd teach at a private school. But I don't. So students lead the pledge in my class, and I stand in the back silently.

I guess I wonder why teachers who have that big a problem with this kind of thing don't just start their own schools.

Of course I'd advocate the state getting out of the education business entirely, but that's a different conversation!


Anonymous said...

BTW - What is with all the anonymous posters lately? It seems like this place has had a lot more anonymous postings since Nov. 5th. Makes it hard to tell which anonymous is saying what.

Ellen K said...

I remember back in grade school when students would fight to get a turn holding the flag and choosing what song we would sing. Sometimes it was the national anthem, sometimes it was other patriotic songs, but we all KNEW all the words. I wonder if any of today's kids even know the words to the national anthem or if they just think it's the song used to start sporting events.

Law and Order Teacher said...

I am sorry you find it creepy, but you needn't worry about our pledge of allegience. I don't get very stressed out about all "Your Majesty" and bowing and curtsying stuff. Each country has its own culture and ours involves patriotic customs. Many thought them important enough to fight for and many around the world should be thankful we patriotic Americans did. We pledge every Monday morning in our school and we actually honor faculty and former students for their military service. Of course, we're just here in the flyover Midwest, being bitter and clinging to our guns and religion. The students will pledge in the classroom I occupy at taxpayer's expense. I'm grateful to my country for the the freedoms I enjoy. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Darren said...

I stand by what I wrote, anonymous. Quit trying to divert the subject to focus on one word I wrote instead of the message of the post. If you want to nitpick, do it on your own blog.

Darren said...

1st anonymous: I've taught in 2 junior highs and 1 high school, so I certainly can't state categorically that this is a jr. high/high school thing, but my experience certainly falls into that categorization.

Anonymous said...

@Darren: No nitpicking. You are a careful writer who choses his words deliberately. The term "violent" was as hyperbolic as it was sensational. More importantly, it was inaccurate. There was nothing violent in the reaction. But the majority's reaction was not one that supported your world view. To you, that made it violent. I think it's safe to say no one other than you interpreted the reaction as violent.

@RWP, was there an original, secular Declaration? The Founding Fathers' Deism was so far from the reactionary movement that tainted the Pledge, it's apples and oranges. But you know that.

@Obama Anonymous: I should respect my freedom of speech by not exercising it? Oh, and if Rio was built by your kind of patriots, I'd like to see evidence of it. And I've been at the school for more than half the school's history. Spreading my anti-American views the whole while! Now *that's* funny! Your perception of my school is so far from reality you really ought to visit sometime.

@Eric: you are correct in that a forced pledge results in mindless chanting. It's amusing to learn what the children think they're supposed to be saying.

Anonymous said...

Law and order:
The bowing and curtseying thing does not happen every day in a school. I suppose it is part of the fact of post war Europe that we find nationalism a little creepy, and when applied to kids, even more icky.

And it is interesting that you say students will pledge in the classroom you occupy. What about students who have no desire to do so?

Darren said...

I assert that because the "conversation" was going your way, you were oblivious to how angry people were and how they were directing that anger at me.

Anonymous said...


Thats me being angry! :)

Unknown said...

"The Founding Fathers' Deism"

Only a small number of the Founding Fathers were Deists, but Deism or not, the Declaration is unambigous: Our rights come from God, not the state, or the supreme court. Secularism has no place.

Anonymous said...

Freedom of speech is guaranteed in our constitution to protect citizens from the government. When a citizen is criticized for what they say by other citizens and not government agents, there is no freedom of speech issue. If you want to exercise your freedom of speech grab a sign and head to the capitol building where I would fight anyone who tried to stop you. Fighting the pledge in your classroom and workplace shows a lack of professionalism, something with which you do not seem to grasp. If you want to see evidence of great Americans teaching at Rio look all over in classrooms where they do not disrespect the flag. I won’t name names but in the foreign languages, speech and debate (ret), physics, history, and government departments I have seen total professionalism coupled with patriotism.

I spent 4 great years at Rio and they developed me into the citizen I am today. Your school? It is not your school, you just work there. Spreading your anti-American views for over half the school’s history? Congratulations, though there have been no uprisings and they still respect the flag and our country there, so maybe try a new teaching technique?

Law and Order Teacher said...

I am aware that people do not have to stand for the pledge. I think they should out of respect to the many who gave their lives so they are able conduct themselves as they wish, but I know courts have ruled otherwise. As for my statement, I will allow those who wish to pledge to do so and not be silenced by those who do not. That seems backwards to me. If for some reason you are offended by the pledge, don't listen or put your fingers in your ears. In today's America the courts silence people for the comfort of others. Strange way to look at things I think.

Anonymous said...

If you're hoping for a theocracy, there are plenty of countries you could move to. The USA is--thankfully--not one of them. Secularism's place is the USA, where freedom of religion includes freedom from religion.

When Michael Newdow presented an overwhelming case against "under God" a few years ago, the Christian-sympathetic SCotUS cried "uncle" and said he had no standing. They couldn't bring themselves to rule on the law because they knew the law didn't support "under God."

@Obama Anonymous
I didn't need to fight a daily pledge recitation; a substantial majority of my colleagues stopped it before any measure of "fight" broke out. I simply broadcast an email inquiry identifying The Pledge in the subject line and "Why?" in the body. My class was interrupted halfway through the period on he first day of school by a surprise ritual that had never been performed at Rio. I was curious as to why. Raising the question didn't make me an outlaw, a communist, or Al Qaeda.

Go back and ask any of those teachers you thought highly of if they consider Rio to be their school. You'll likely be quite disappointed with their answers. Anyone who "just works there" is not likely contributing to what makes the school great. They're just punching the clock and taking their pay. And they'd never be seen at an extracurricular event beyond their contractual obligations.

Those who make the school great do take on a sense of ownership. That's why they give to the school more than their contract requires. I should add that the teacher most vocal against the pledge is also in charge of what is arguably the school's most successful program. He is a model of professionalism at the school.

And no one working at Rio is anti-American. You are severely misguided if you equate opposition to daily classroom pledge recitation with anti-Americanism.

Unknown said...

"where freedom of religion includes freedom from religion"

Show me that clause in the Constitution. Never mind. Here is the text:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

There is nothing in the text that implies a "freedom from religion."

Fascinating that you ducked the point entirely.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, most of the court cases that have led to the idea of secularism being the best thing for the state have not been from atheists, but from Christians.

Catholics who didnt like the sectarian choice of Bible readings or prayers.

Jehovah's witnesses who didnt like the idea of being made to pledge allegiance to a flag.

The function of the state is not to inculcate a religion in the citizens. Sure, let them pray on their own time if they want, but once the state itself starts saying prayers or advocating one god or another, then it causes more trouble than it is worth.

Anonymous said...

I would love to be a student in that teacher's class. I'd start out each class saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and if the "teacher" tried to stop me I would say "Are you trying to deprive me of my 1st Amendment rights?"


Anonymous said...

I never said it was in The Constitution. Nevertheless, it is the law of the land. (Actually, I'm not the only one who sees freedom from religion as a consequence of The Establishment Clause.)

Still though, I am ever amused by people who suggest there is no freedom from religion in the US.

Do you imagine we live in a state wherein individuals are forced to choose some religion? Where Atheism is banned? (And you can only consider Atheism to be a religion if you consider not collecting stamps to be a hobby.)

Moreover, does your support of religion in the public square extend to Wiccans and Satanists? Should their lessons for public schoolchildren be defended, too?

You are correct and thanks for reminding us that Atheists have no political power whatsoever in the US. Anyone who suggests otherwise should start by making a list of US Presidents, Senators, Representatives, and SC Justices who are or were, as they say in the corporate media, "avowed Atheists." (One rarely hears of individuals described as "avowed Christians" or "avowed Jews.")

Few groups are so vilified and scorned as Atheists. So of course it is others who maintain The Wall of Separation.

And as far as inculcation goes. Does anyone really think daily recitations of a flag pledge inculcate patriotism? Seriously?

Patriotism cannot be forced on individuals. Rather it is instilled by bearing witness to the great achievements of the nation and her people. By the liberties that originated or were improved upon in the US. Let the greatness of the country speak for itself by way of demonstration and example. Don't say it's great, show the greatness that it produces.

The pledge is a complete failure as an instiller of patriotism. It encourages passivity, if anything.

Anonymous said...

"You are correct and thanks for reminding us that Atheists have no political power whatsoever in the US."

Bollocks! Just because someone cannot name a politician who identifies themselves as an Atheist, does not mean that they do not have political power. Believe me, the ACLU will trip over itself in its rush to represent an Atheist. The very threat is enough to give an Atheist a lot of political power, indeed.

Anonymous said...

neko said: "The very threat is enough to give an Atheist a lot of political power, indeed."

For example,... > crickets <

No bollocks about it. You cannot attain any significant political or judicial office in the US if you identify as Atheist. You can be Black, you can be female, you can be gay, you can be a sex offender, but you cannot be Atheist.

Go ahead, list some other tags that preclude one from high office so thoroughly. And/or defend the automatic disqualification on Atheism alone so that we can see why nothing else about an individual merits consideration if they are an Atheist.

American voters cannot see past that single criterion. Why, exactly, is that as it should be?

Anonymous said...

Again, you miss the point. Atheists are not the ones who have brought the court cases that have established the idea that the state should be secular. It is Christians who objected to another brand of Christianity being promoted by the state. The best way to avoid people being upset when the state promotes the "wrong" kind of religion is for the state to promote no kinds of religion.

As for the ACLU, their position on religion is pretty clear, the state should be secular, while citizens should be free to worship how they desire. So, schools should not lead prayers but individuals in schools should be able to pray in their own time or make religious statements.

Anonymous said...

Neko is scaring me.
Could it be possible that public school kids will be required to sing the Obama Anthem????

It could happen...