California Educator

September 2013

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Perspectives Point/Counterpoint To pledge or not to pledge YES "I pledge allegiance to the flag…" My school day began this way for the past 26 years. While California law does not require the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited, it does require a daily patriotic observance. I am lucky to teach at a school that recites the pledge and sings a patriotic song each day. I am the son of a Marine Corps officer, and since childhood have participated in various forms of patriotic expression. After high school, I proudly served in the U.S. Air Force. During this time I was fully aware that if events in the world dictated it, I might need to give my life for the freedoms enjoyed by all citizens of this country. This reinforced my patriotism and love of this great nation. One of the core building blocks of a society is the observance of patriotic activities. I believe the custom of reciting the pledge by school children fosters a great appreciation for the foundational principles of this country in the hearts our youngest citizens. One might say that the pledge is just a set of meaningless words for these students. I completely disagree. Students learn its meaning in the primary grades. To lose the Pledge of Allegiance from our school classrooms would chip away at the building blocks of our society. While the Pledge of Allegiance has only a short 121-year history, it is a succinct statement that eloquently summarizes the values of this great nation. It focuses us on the ideals of freedom, liberty and justice for all. The Pledge of Allegiance must be recited daily in school classrooms in order to celebrate the United States of America. Otherwise our republic may not stand the pressures of time. DALE KENNEDY teaches eighth-graders at Thomas Law Reed School in Reedley Kings Canyon Education Association 26 Educator 09 Sep 2013 v3.6 int.indd 26 is the That stion! que NO In some schools students recite the pledge daily; in others rarely or never. California state law doesn't require recitation in schools, although 45 other states do. Should the Pledge of Allegiance be recited in school? I have two objections to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in our schools. The first is the pledge's religious message. I believe God's role in the United States is a question of faith that's appropriate for parents to discuss with their children, but not for me to ask students to memorize by rote. The second objection is the pledge's contribution to our education system's uncritical patriotism, beginning before children are even mature enough to comprehend the ideas of the pledge. I believe firmly in the principles of liberty and equality (among others), but I'm not convinced that reciting this message daily actually brings these aspirational values to life or truly connects all Americans to one another across the boundaries of race, class and other divisions. The idea of "one nation" seems pretty naive when Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee are conveniently pushing standardized tests and school privatization schemes as the panacea to our schools' shortcomings, instead of taking a hard swing at eliminating childhood poverty by raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour so working parents can provide for their kids. Educators who want to instill civic values and critical thinking in our youth would do far better to help students learn about what is (and what isn't) in the Bill of Rights, examine the impact and unfinished legacy of the civil rights movement, and encourage older students to volunteer at a food bank on a Saturday. The Supreme Court wrote in its 1943 decision allowing individuals to opt out of reciting the pledge in school: "To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds." JOHN GREEN teaches modern world history at Castro Valley High School Castro Valley Teachers Association S E P T E M B E R 2013 9/3/13 2:25 PM

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