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Photo of To Pledge or not to Pledge

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Lara Simmons on October 20th, 2011 @ 08:54 PM 4 comments
Our local elementary school (and the school my children attend) has become embroiled in a heated battle over the Pledge of Allegiance and I find myself utterly, completely and surprisingly on the fence.

On the one hand I consider myself a tree-hugging, peace-loving, compulsively-recycling, bleeding-heart liberal. I went door-to-door for Obama in ‘08. I always give money to the Real Change vendors in our neighborhood. The fact that our food waste and recycling each week far outweigh our garbage actually makes me feel a little bit giddy. Us liberals tend to find blatant displays of national pride uncomfortable, unnecessary and just a little bit un-liberal.

On the other hand, I like what I have seen so far of our new principal and I want to support her. I believe that if she feels this is important she must have a good reason (her stated reason is “to provide children access to…the pledge” as required by state law). And, to be completely honest, the idea of my children saying the pledge of allegiance makes me feel a little bit nostalgic.

When I was in school we said the pledge every day without fail, without question and without controversy. It was just something you did. At my high school (a school in which every student was required to take at least two years of Latin) we said the pledge in Latin. I can still recite parts of it by heart some twenty-five years later – “Uni nationi, Deo ducente, Non dividendae, Cum libertate, Iustitiaque omnibus” – and it’s a fond memory, something that bound us together as a school community.

I agree that not everything the pledge states has been achieved (“liberty and justice for all”), not everything it proclaims (“indivisible”) is always true – this controversy has shown that we can, at times, be quite divided – and not everyone in this country believes us to be “one nation, under God.”

And while the vision of the John Stanford International School is, “To create a culturally diverse community of life-long learners who demonstrate advanced skills in communication, international language and technology…” I honestly don’t see how saying the pledge negates this vision as some parents in our community do.

The fact that saying the pledge is voluntary – that is, the pledge will be said in every classroom, however, any student or teacher may remain silent and seated for any reason if they so choose – and that the controversy has sparked such a lively discussion in our community seems a reason to do it. If our vision is “to create a culturally diverse community of….learners who demonstrate advanced skills in communication….” I would say our struggles with the pledge – both internally and with each other – are a good lesson on the path to achieving this vision.

4 comments

JSISparentToll on October 22nd, 2011 at 04:46 AM

Some very patriotic American families do not believe in "God". They, as taxpaying, community supporting, generous and kind American citizens also believe in a country where young children are not required to make pledges that insert religion into their daily lives (which are otherwise 100% deliberately free from religion). They want freedom from religion. Especially in a public school in one of the nations most liberal zip codes. The alternative, of remaining silent during this daily pledge reciting ritual marginally allows for this, but unnecessarily creates a divide among children who are all on the same team; U.S.A., but whose families are religious vs. non., however it gives the impression to others that the child doesn't have patriotism; which is not only not the case, but is unnecessarily polarizing. So - perhaps the solution is for the child to "omit" the "God" part; no. This is not a fair solution. The state legislators who enacted this law did so for their own political and possibly religious reasons or beliefs; but that does not make it acceptable to all patriotic parents. These parents have a right and reason to object to this law and this pledge, and should not have to hear "love it or leave it" from those who's morals are not being compromised. Non-religious American families are tolerant of all sorts of religious beliefs. All we ask is that while we respect your freedom of religion, you respect our freedom from it by not passing laws requiring our children to either a) pledge allegiance to a nation under your God, or b) stand up and be defined as unpatriotic among their peers. These are pretty lame choices for a 5 or 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 year old child, and pretty lame examples of liberty for all. At the end of the day this is about a State law, which will be very hard to change, but ought to -such that the original pledge pre- the 1957 Macarthy Communist witch hunting change to include "God" was implemented.

Gael O'Reilly on October 22nd, 2011 at 01:22 PM

Thank God for rationality - I agree with what you say, Lara, I too remember saying the Pledge every day in school - and when I started doing it there was no 'under God'-actually we were all pretty excited when 'under God' was added! As long as there is a choice that is fine with me!

Jean Beck on October 22nd, 2011 at 01:30 PM

While I don't have anything against the Pledge of Allegiance in a narrow sense, I feel there ought to be a pledge to the well-being of the entire planet. Sometimes such country-specific oaths of fealty, perhaps subconsciously, divide us as a planet and species rather than helping us to see and support the greatest good for all.

Shannon on November 1st, 2011 at 02:29 PM

I never understood why we had to pledge to a FLAG. A flag is merely a symbol. I also never understood why we require(d) small children to recite and adhere to this pledge. Before my child entered Kindergarten (15 years ago) I explained what the pledge is and how I felt/feel about it. I also explained that she did not have to stand and recite it if she did not want to, or if she did not understand what she was pledging/saying/committing to. She chose to stand and say the pledge with her classmates. (I was actually pretty disappointed but I gave her the option and she made her choice) Later, she became more informed and politically active, she has since opted out of reciting it. However,she does stand up out of respect for those who have chosen differently. She also stands and sings the Star Spangled Banner with her hand on her heart at every opportunity. I am spiritual and religious. I am also a liberal who believes in the separation of church and state. I don't particularly care for the "Under God" part but I also know that it can be omitted as well as interpreted numerous ways. I see no reason to get all riled up about words. I feel it is an opportunity to teach our children to think for themselves and to question authority as well as just question. And...It does not say "Under the Judeo Christian God" so if it prompts questions about the numerous 'Gods' people worship it is an opportunity for all of us to learn and better understand our neighbors. Providing access to a pledge is a far cry from requiring recitation, committment and belief from small children who often times can't decide if they want penut butter or penut butter and jelly.

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