Parent Sends Letter to School About Pledge

Terry Firma (which I assume must be a nom de blog), writes over at Hemant’s blog about a letter he wrote to the school his daughter attends concerning the recitation of the pledge of allegiance by all the students. I agree with pretty much everything he says. He wrote, in part:

The Pledge of Allegiance has, unfortunately, morphed into a political and social hornet’s nest. I believe that our school would do well to shy away from it altogether.

First, as an American by choice (I’m an immigrant and became a naturalized citizen as an adult), my own allegiance to the United States is deep and sincere; I don’t love my country merely by accident of birth.

But it makes me uncomfortable when kids as young as 6 or 7 or 8 are asked to say the Pledge — any pledge, I suppose, that goes beyond the simple “I’ll be kind to others.” They’re not old enough to realize what’s being drilled into their skulls. I’d like my brood to learn they are first and foremost citizens of the world, rather than of one particular country. To the extent that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance over and over contributes to the notion of U.S. exceptionalism, “manifest destiny,” and other “We’re Number 1″ jingoistic rot … well, let’s just say I’d like the children of our community to steer clear of all that potential ugliness.

Quite right. The entire idea of a pledge of allegiance has a whiff of fascism to it, especially when it involves rote recitation by children who couldn’t possibly grasp its meaning. He goes on to address the “under God” part, but I’ll leave you to read the rest at Hemant’s place.

18 comments on this post.
  1. Mr Ed:

    I find that we say the pledge so often that it has become a mindless mantra. It is the touch typing of civics, we go through the motions but have long since stop processing the words or meanings, were just making the sounds.

  2. Sastra:

    When she was in high school my daughter refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance for just this reason: it reinforced an us vs. them view of the world. I didn’t quite agree with her and we had a discussion, but it was clear that her reasons were thoughtful, principled, and a matter of conscience and I was proud of her. When she was sent to the principal’s office for not even standing respectfully while others recited, she later reported that the notion of bringing her mother in was brought up. I’m not sure if the prompt “you do that” or the anticipatory gleam in her eye clued him in, but it was just as quickly dropped.

    She received no official penalty but got a bit of flak, particularly from her homeroom teacher.

  3. Olav:

    I am not used to Ed mincing words like this:

    The entire idea of a pledge of allegiance has a whiff of fascism to it,

    An awful overwhelming stench, more like.

  4. illdoittomorrow:

    Mr Ed, at 1:

    “I find that we say the pledge so often that it has become a mindless mantra.”

    That’s a feature, not a bug. Part of the fun of propaganda is endless repetition- if we can’t make a chest-thumping capital-P Patriot out of you, then dulling your senses and sucking any legitimate meaning out of the experience will do.

    Of course, if such exercises can contribute to both conditions in the same person, so much the better.

  5. scoobygang:

    I’m not in the US. To me, from the outside looking in, the pledge of allegiance has always been super-creepy. Like Invasion-of-the-Body-Snatchers-creepy.

  6. timberwoof:

    It’s like Godwin creepy, says the German kid.

  7. mck9:

    Mandatory allegiance is not allegiance at all.

  8. tmscott:

    About four and a half decades ago, when I was in the fifth grade, my teacher was similarly conflicted about the pledge. Unfortunately, it was the school’s policy that we all recited it. Her response was to teach us the preamble to the constitution, which we recited immediately after the pledge. She also made sure that we understood what it meant both when it was written, and in present day.

    It means so much more to me than some loyalty oath. Thank you Ms. Black.

  9. kantalope:

    The chapter in Catch-22 dealing with loyalty oaths should be required reading.

    “Give Eats!”

  10. otrame:

    @kantalope

    Thank you for reminding me of that. Smiles are good for you. However, if my poor grammar-ridden brain remembers correctly (an assumption that should never be made) it was “Give eat!”

    Still made me smile. It’s the simple things that give us the most pleasure.

  11. Nick Gotts:

    kantalope@9, otrame@10,

    “Gimme eat.”

  12. No One:

    The entire idea of a pledge of allegiance has a whiff of fascism to it,

    Hang on a minute… where did I put that… ah here it is… (blows dust off link):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellamy_salute

  13. tacitus:

    When growing up in England and then Scotland, just about every school day of my entire school career started with a hymn, a prayer, a Bible reading, recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, and a blessing. All of this in state schools.

    I grew up as part of probably the least religious British generation in the last 1000 years.

    I suspect that the Pledge of Allegiance has already lost most of its power to indoctrinate. The increasing secularization, the Internet (national and international), and the weakening of the position of religious institutions to dictate morality, have all diluted its influence on children’s lives.

  14. Michael Heath:

    tacitus writes:

    I suspect that the Pledge of Allegiance has already lost most of its power to indoctrinate.

    That’s not my objection to citing the pledge. Instead I perceive saying the pledge as pressure to:
    a) submit myself to Christianism, effectively allying myself with people such as Sarah Palin and Bryan Fischer,
    b) oppose the founding ideals of the U.S. government, especially secularism, liberty, the enlightenment, human rights, and liberalism (I repeat myself a little here),
    c) oppose the U.S. Constitution and finally,
    d) oppose the Declaration of Independence.

    Because I support the just governance argument contained within the Declaration of I hate the pledge. Because I support the U.S. Constitution I hate the pledge. Because I support liberalism, human rights, the enlightenment, liberty, and secularism, I hate the pledge. You get the idea . . .

  15. John Pieret:

    The next wingnut freakout:

    Air Force Academy cadets are no longer required to say “so help me God” at the end of the Honor Oath:

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/god-optional-air-force-test-oath-20685135

  16. Crudely Wrott:

    Nick Gotts @11:

    kantalope@9, otrame@10,

    “Gimme eat.”

    Don’t forget the rest: “Give everybody eat!”

    Now, was that Captain Black or was it Major Major Major Major? Damn! It’s been a long time since I read Catch-22. I think I’ll do it again right after I finish the rest of Twain, Chesterson, Bierce, Carlin . . .
    *hoo, boy! I need to live another hunnert years*

  17. Marcus Ranum:

    It is a blanket pledge of subjection, and is therefore totally fascistic.

  18. nurseingrid:

    Totally agree with Ed and these comments. The Pledge creeped me out as a kid, precisely because I didn’t really understand it. No way does it belong in public school.
    I will say, however, that one of the most moving parts of the Reason Rally last year was the military color guard leading us all in reciting the original, pre-”under God” Pledge. It felt both defiant and patriotic, in a good way.

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