Vermont Town Divided Over Pledge

It’s ironic, isn’t it? The Pledge of Allegiance, which describes the United States as “indivisible”, has become one of the most divisive issues among us.

I first read about this particular division at My Crazy Life. You’ll want to check out the video she has posted there. Mike Newdow is interviewed by a frothing-at-the-mouth Fox News reporter (as if that’s not a redundant turn of phrase!). It’s slightly amusing to watch as Mike maintains his composure, remaining completely rational, while she (I don’t know her name) can barely contain herself.

So what’s up in Vermont? CBS News reports:

(AP) No one is sure when daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance fell by the wayside at Woodbury Elementary School.

But efforts to restore them have erupted into a bitter dispute in this town of about 800 residents, with school officials blocking the exercise from classrooms over concerns that it holds children who don’t participate up to scorn.

See there? Small town folks can too be rational.

So what did this little school do? They arranged for students who want to participate in group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to gather in the gym and do it there. You might consider this a reasonable compromise that works for everyone. If only…

Tedesco, 55, a retired Marine Corps major, and others who signed his petitions didn’t like that solution, calling it disruptive and inappropriate because it put young children in the position of having to decide between pre-class play time and leaving the classroom to say the pledge.

So, let me see if I understand this correctly. Woodbury Elementary School is ticking along just fine, not having daily recitations of the Pledge. Things have been this way for so long that, according to the article, no one is even sure when the practice “fell by the wayside”.

Then along comes Mr. Tedesco with his petition and lobbying, which ultimately results in agreement by school officials to resume the daily exercise of reciting the Pledge, and special accommodations being made for students who wish to participate.

In other words: disrupting the routine of the entire school!

Then, when things don’t play out to his complete and ultimate satisfaction, he objects on the grounds that the compromises and accommodations are, what? Did he call it “disruptive”?!

Good Gawd! Irony just doesn’t get any jucier than that, does it?

Pst… Tedesco. You instigated the “disruption”. If you were truly interested in not disrupting things, you would have left things the way they were.

But, I suppose if Tedesco & Co. had been granted every one of their wishes, everything would be peachy keen. Never mind those parents and students who consider the Pledge itself to be an inappropriate disruption in the classroom. But who cares what they think, anyway? They’re probably not even real Americans. In fact, they can just take their sorry arses someplace like Iraq if they don’t want to hear the Pledge of Allegiance, God bless America!

I think it’s also worth highlighting that, while Tedesco considers this important enough to circulate a petition lobbying for classroom recitation of the Pledge and ultimately withdraw his children from the school (he says for academic reasons and not the Pledge issue, but the timing is rather suspicious) he doesn’t think it’s important enough to make kids give up a few minutes of playtime in the morning.

What about values? What about teaching children priorities? Sacrifice builds character, etc., etc.

But wait! What if Mr. Tedesco is really worried that, given the choice between playtime and gathering to recite the Pledge, the kids would choose playtime? Gawd knows we can’t start allowing children to make choices, especially when they’re likely to opt out of something so vitally important to the grown ups!

No! This ritual must be performed in the classroom where they can’t get away, where those who don’t wish to participate or might object to it for some reason are forced to hear it.

In other words, it’s not enough to simply accommodate students who wish to participate, we must force all students to participate in some way or another. The fact that this doesn’t surprise me is a bit unsettling.

But, hey! I could be completely wrong. Maybe Tedesco and those who share his views really do think that the arrangement is disruptive and imposes undue hardship on students. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’ve come up with a solution that should satisfy everyone! I’m all about compromise, after all.

I would be perfectly happy for my son’s school to have two morning bells. The first bell calls for all students who wish to participate in group recitation of the Pledge to report to their classrooms for said ritual. The second bell calls all remaining students to class after the ceremony. Everyone gets the same tardy bell. I’m willing to allow the first bell to ring at the usual time to avoid cutting into anyone’s morning playtime or other recreational activities.

Tedesco & Co. get their playtime and their classroom recitation; those who do not wish to participate are not forced to.

This has the added benefit of staggering hall traffic at larger schools, making the hallways less crowded and thereby safer for all students. Students continue reporting to their regular classrooms, roll call is taken as usual, and class instruction begins immediately afterward.

Of course, this is still in its rough phase, but it seems reasonable to me. Any objections?

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On

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23 responses to “Vermont Town Divided Over Pledge

  • Postman

    I’ve got nothing to add to that but “Hear, hear.”

  • thehun

    When we had the pledge ins school when I was growing up, I never really gave it much thought… welll… actually I did give it some thought one time. I wanted to understand what the words I was saying meant seeing how I had been saying them for a couple years at that point.

    After giving them some thought, dissecting each sentence and the meaning, I figured it was still fairly meaningless. This allowed me to continue on saying them for the rest for my grammar school career w/o giving them much thought.

    So I can’t say I care whether they say the pledge or not. I don’t have and will not have kids. I can see the issue for kids who do not participate being excluded. How much money do we want to bet that a parent like Mr. Tedesco, when his kid asks when some kids choose not to recite the pledge, will have something negative and divisive to say about those kids and their parents, likely slandering their patriotism.

    I know we shouldn’t assume, but if you had to take a bet…

    So two more points.

    1. this is clearly to doing of the nefarious Barak Obama. If he only wore that flag lapel pin these kids wouldn’t be running wild not saying the pledge. Without which we cannot love our country, obviously. At all.

    2. Mr. Tedesco ought to realize he is not in what is known as “Real America”. So maybe he should just move.

  • Terra

    I am behind in my homework, so I am going to be lazy and ask you. Is this against the “in god” or against the “idol worship” thing. (I have seen Christians upset about it, as they see it as idol worship, and I have seen some “atheists” that see it discrimination. Then to be fair I have seen both sides of the fence say that it was wrong because it was against the idea of church and state.)

  • Lottie

    Thanks, Postman!

    Matto (may I call you Matto?):

    That’s exactly what I was telling my husband last night. It bugged me, even as a child, because I didn’t know what I was saying or why. I remember the day that I realized I had been saying something else in place of “indivisible”. I don’t recall what I had been saying all along, I just remember learning what the word was supposed to be and knowing that it’s not what I had been saying, if that makes sense. I didn’t like that at all.

    Terra:

    I’m a little short on time as well, but you’ve asked a good question and I will try to give you a short but coherent response.

    Some people object because of the “under God” bit. It’s certainly one of my reasons. I’ve also heard various Christians object because, as you mentioned, they consider it a form or idol worship. Some people even object on political grounds or simply as a matter of conscience. They may feel that it’s a form of forced, blind allegiance which is also a component of totalitarianism. I tend to agree with that, at least to some extent.

    For the record, I don’t think that anyone should be restricted from reciting the Pledge anymore than I think people should be restricted from praying. But, as with prayer, the pledge should not be compulsory and certainly not by the government or government sponsored entities, i.e. public schools.

    That’s my short answer. Thanks for asking the question. I may write a full post on the subject, but it will probably have to wait for the weekend.

    I hope that answered your question. If not, feel free to restate it and I’ll give it another shot. Maybe someone else will chime in as well. There are certainly some brilliant minds around here.

  • Terra

    That answered a question I was intending on following up with ๐Ÿ™‚ Your opinion on it. (I am not sure what my opinion is, I am very “American” and “pro-America” regardless of what some people think. However, I agree that saying the pledge should be a choice. It is kind of like an oath, and in my mind a lie if someone is made to say it. And just for the record I say it as it was written without the “under god” which is most likely why I quoted it wrong.) ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anyway, in my hurry I neglected to say where that question was aimed, I specifically meant the town in Vermont and the general “reason” that it was made so that the children could choose if they wanted to participate or not. (Basically, I want to find out eventually, if one the reasons behind the objections has more “say” than a different reason. So I think the first step in that investigation would be to look at places that have taken this kind of step, and see the reasons behind it.)

  • thehun

    Lottie: in regard to the usage of Matto, go for it ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And yeah, it’s really quite silly when you come down to it. Like if you don’t say these words you don’t love or appreciate your country? If your love or appreciation for your country is so tenuos that you have to recite this chant everyday to remind yourself… well, seems like those who don’t feel the need to say it probably aren’t the ones we need to worry about.

    Terra

    Wow, there are Christians who object to the pledge because of “idol worship”?! I have not heard that.

    That is so awesome. First, because it’s completely insane. Second, on further thought, it’s actually kinda consistent in a way… I guess… though that doesn’t let them off the hook for being insane.

    How entertaining.

    My brother objects to the pledge in school because of the blind/compulsory allegiance thing. I can certainly see that and kinda lean that way, even though I’ve expressed my general ambivalence to the pledge.

  • efilyzarcym

    Your compromise is excellent!! If I ever send my kid back to school, I will suggest that as an alternative.
    Most kids don’t give a rip about saying the Pledge, as most have no clue what it is all about – – and just recite it ’cause the adults in their lives told them to. If it weren’t for the bigger picture, I wouldn’t bitch about it at all; however, if you allow the Pledge, why not allow praying IN CLASS, or how about Bible study, or corporal punishment, perhaps a creation “science” class…..as long as there is church in the schools….blah, blah, blah.

  • Lottie

    Terra:

    Officials at the school in Vermont said that it would be optional and arranged for it to take place in the gym because of concerns that classroom recitation “holds children who don’t participate up to scorn”.

    Based on my son’s experience, this is sometimes the case. He has no choice but to be in the classroom when the pledge is recited, so he just stands quietly with his hands in his pockets. He’s been ridiculed on several occasions.

    Matto:

    If your love or appreciation for your country is so tenuos that you have to recite this chant everyday to remind yourselfโ€ฆ well, seems like those who donโ€™t feel the need to say it probably arenโ€™t the ones we need to worry about.

    Good point! I’ll have to include it when I write my next post on the subject. I’ll link to your comment when I do.

    Thanks! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Heidi: Preach it sister! ๐Ÿ˜†

    Seriously, though, you make some very good points as well. Thanks for commenting!

  • Terra

    Interesting, I might have to look into that more.

    Here is an example (took a minute to find one, I actually haven’t heard anyone complain about idol worship in relation to the flag in a long time. (Now when I lived in Alabama it was a GREAT concern to many…) http://belowthesurface.wordpress.com/2008/02/10/idol-worship/

  • Lottie

    Wow! That’s interesting, Terra. I’ve heard the bit about idol worship, but I’ve never heard the Pledge referred to as Satanism. Thanks for the link!

    By the way, I think it’s important to mention that I have never told my son not to recite the Pledge. I have explained that it’s optional and completely his choice. Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever having explained my objections to him, or even that I object at all. I just told him that it’s a personal choice, and he chose not to. I think we’ll have a casual talk about it over dinner tonight.

    Hmmm… I feel another post coming on. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • thehun

    Lottie: I am sorry to hear about your son’s experience. That really sucks, yet entirely unsurprising.

    I can remember when I was a wee little tyke in school (I remember being a wee little tyke out of school too :O )… that as soon as the kids found out a kid was Jewish… BAM… that kid got picked on. Eventually that wore off and kids didn’t care that the one kid was Jewish or not. They probably didn’t care when they were picking on him. They’re just mean spirited little turds who find differences in other kids and put them down for it because they are in the majority.

    Unfortunately this faux patriot flag fetish been climaxing in this country and over hyped by the Reich Wing Republicans. This makes the USA one giant kindergarten class room where the majority has a stunted empathy for others who think differently and only accept things in “either-or” terms… a behavior embodied in the words of George W. Bush, the ultimate man-child, when he said “You’re either with us or against us”.

    blah… I’m still hoping that the election of Obama, and the backlash against the likes of Libby Dole, are a sign that Americans are getting tired of the right wing hate mongering.

    That’s really cool that your kid chooses for himself w/o your influence not to do the pledge. It’s a rare thing these days.

    I have one question though. Doing the pledge as a group in the gym, I don’t see how that is much different then the pledge in a classroom. Your classmates would still notice your absence. Kids aren’t that stupid… even the stupid kids aren’t that stupid. Did I miss something?

    Terra: Thanks for the link. Now I know they exist ๐Ÿ˜›

    I was especially entertained by this line: “I cannot pledge my devotion to two pieces of cloth and a book.”

    Really? So this person will pledge their devotion to an all powerful invisible friend which they cannot prove actually exists anymore than other such colorful personalities as Zeus, Thor, or Odin.

  • Lottie

    Matto: You nailed it, as usual. I was nodding along as I read your comment. As to your question:

    Doing the pledge as a group in the gym, I donโ€™t see how that is much different then the pledge in a classroom. Your classmates would still notice your absence.

    I thought about that too. I still have to commend the school officials for recognizing the possibility that kids who opt out may be taunted and taking measures to try and prevent it.

    I was thinking, too, that perhaps with it being so clearly optional, it won’t be as a big a deal. When the teacher instructs a room full of students to stand for the Pledge and participates him/herself, there’s at least a subtle endorsement there.

    Instead, at the school in Vermont, kids are invited, rather than instructed, to participate. Some teachers will have to stay behind as well, for the students who don’t go. This seems to create more balance, if you see what I mean.

    Maybe this way, opting out won’t be any more taunt-worthy than choosing to draw rather than read during free time, or playing jump rope rather than tag at recess. One can certainly hope.

    Lots of good discussion here. I’ll have plenty to write about on this topic when I get more time.

    Thanks for another excellent comment!

  • Terra

    Since you mentioned your son, I will tell my daughters. I also haven’t informed them of anything in regards to the flag. (Although, to be fair they know I am all about choice in anything – except for those absolute mom duties, then I hate it but it is a necessary evil. I want to bring them up to be “thinking” people, even if they think differently then me.)

    Heaven (14), will most likely follow me in the path of the Buddha in regards to religion/philosophy. However, she might not as I have learned she doesn’t have that much interest beyond being fair (as in research and actual physically having to find answers that she knows she already possesses isn’t something she finds fun). So to bring that into the topic, she feels it should be a choice. However, that laziness falls over into this as well. She doesn’t care what it means, she chooses to do it because it is easier. Perhaps when she gets older she will care? (Regardless of choice, hopefully it will change.)

    Katrina (9), will most likely be one to believe in God. Granted she isn’t old enough to be really looking into it, but I can already tell that is what she is going to want to believe in and therefore she is likely to attempt to find things that support her views. In regards to the flag her school doesn’t do this, so I don’t know…

  • thehun

    Thank YOU for such a great forum with intelligent and well written… and as well, attracts a great group of smart, thoughtful and friendly participants (so thanks to them too!)

    I like the part about having the time to draw rather than going to the pledge thingie. Now I’m jealous. I was always drawing in school. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Lottie

    Terra: That’s awesome! It’s good to know other moms who want their kids to find their own way. Like you, I want my son to make up his own mind about things. I will provide what information I have and share my thoughts and opinions, but he is an individual with his own mind. He doesn’t have to agree with me on everything to gain my acceptance, and I believe he knows that. It’s always nice to meet other mom’s with the same sort of views.

    Matto: Wow! What a nice compliment. I certainly appreciate the encouragement. And I hope you count yourself in with the smart, thoughtful and friendly participants. I certainly do!

  • B.T. Murtagh

    My sig on Daily Kos is “one nation, indivisible” – I’ve always been struck that the “under God” phrase was inserted between “one nation” and “indivisible”; it is a phrase which does nothing but introduce division into a ritual which was intended to promote unity.

    When I discuss it with people who are indignant about removing the phrase “under God” I usually find that they are unaware that it was a late addition in the forst place (Sarah Palin is not alone in this particular bit of historical ignorance); I then ask them if there is anything they find objectionable in the original version, and point out that all the addition did was exclude some Americans while adding none.

    Naturally this logic doesn’t always prevail. The main survival advantage of religion to human societies is that it binds co-religionists together; sadly, that is usually accomplished at the cost of greater exclusion of others. It follows as the night the day that the people who dig in their heels for the amended version consider atheists (and usually all non-Christians) not to be ‘real Americans’ at all.

    On another historical note: yes, some Christians object to the Pledge on the grounds that is is idol worship, and in fact those are the people who got it ensrined into law that the Pledge could not be made compulsory, and the abolition of teacher-led school prayer followed from there. The case was West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    More recently, the SCOTUS pusillanimously refused to rule on the point of Unified School District v. Newdow, on the specious grounds that Michael Newdow lacked standing since he wasn’t a custodial parent. Not only was that a transparent excuse to sidestep a politically-charged issue (one in which sitting Supreme Court Justices were likely to have their own rulings force them into a decision they didn’t want to make), but it was a slap in the face to noncustodial parents like myself; apparently unless my child lives with me I have no legal standing to object to a governmental entity propagandizing my kid with a religious agenda.

  • Terra

    Sometimes I wish, I would pay more attention to the outside world.
    grounds that Michael Newdow lacked standing since he wasnโ€™t a custodial parent
    That is the most STUPID thing I have ever heard! Ridiculous…

  • Lottie

    B.T.:

    Thanks so much for all the information.

    When we were discussing certain Christians’ objection to the Pledge based on the belief that it’s a form of idol worship, Jehovah’s Witnesses were the very people who came to mind. I didn’t know that they had played such a critical role in all of this, though.

    Like Terra, I’m appalled by the Supreme Court’s refusal to rule just because Newdow wasn’t a custodial parent. I think you’re right — it was an excuse and a transparent one, at that.

    Thanks again for your feedback. It’s always good to hear from you!

  • sauer kraut

    Newdow is a self-aggrandizing idiot who is right up there with Sarah Palin.

    That aside, the Pledge is part of the social studies curriculum. There is no valid reason for removing it. Treating it like the Father’s Prayer is just plain stupid.

  • Lottie

    1. If that’s true, then why isn’t it performed exclusively in Social Studies classes?

    2. I could go along with that if the Pledge was simply being studied, but it’s not. In fact, it isn’t studied at all, as evidenced by the fact that most children (and many adults) can’t even define all the words they’re reciting, much less give an accurate history of the Pledge. Instead, kids are made to memorize a string of words and engage in the daily ritual of reciting them without being told what any of it means, or why they’re even doing it.

    If that’s what passes for “curriculum”, our schools are in worse shape than I thought they were. Truth be told, I’m more comfortable with the Pledge being regarded as a sacred ritual, than with something so mindless being part of my son’s curriculum.

    As for your comment about Michael Newdow, he may be a self-aggrandizing idiot. I don’t know. But that has no bearing on his arguments regarding the Pledge or his standing as a parent to object to his child being indcotrinated.

  • Terra

    I have to agree with Lottie, I don’t have a problem with the pledge per say, but it isn’t appropriate to have children say it and not know why or what they are saying. If the person is a Jew, Christian or Muslim the argument of idol worship is valid for one. (All three have the OT as part of their religions, and the bible is not compromising on that aspect.) In fact even though I am not a member of any of those faiths I have more respect for those that are of those faiths that do as the book says. If the person doesn’t believe in god, then it is perfectly acceptable for that small part to be thought of as against them as well.

    Then to add Lottie’s argument (which is the first time I have seen such an argument) that it shouldn’t be a ritual in which children don’t understand is also a perfectly valid complaint.

    I can excuse my children from sex ed, I should be able to choose to excuse my children from this on the same grounds if I choose. There is a point where the schools have to back off, the parents are responsible for some things. Patriotism is in my opinion closer to a moral opinion than it is a fact based opinion. I for one was very upset when I grew up to realize that most of my history lessons in school where in fact propaganda to the highest degree. (Example: Hitler was a horrible man, but no attempt was ever given to show the good things he did – and if it was real history it would show both sides. Another was my total disappointment when I realized that Lincoln wasn’t the man I thought he was, and on and on.)

    Anyway, the point is I don’t send my children to school to learn propaganda for or against anything, I send them to learn the truth. We learn from the truth, we get close minded thinking we are right in everything, not understanding there are two sides to every story problems when we are given a lot of propaganda.

    I love the pledge, I feel strongly that my country has more good to offer than bad. I also feel it is a work in progress, and that knowing the mistakes we make teaches us more than knowing the good we have done.

    I will shut up now, because I can write a book on the subject ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Lottie

    You never have to shut up here, Terra. I always enjoy hearing from you. Thanks for taking the time and for a great comment.

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