To the Flag -- Pledge of Allegiance 5-9-09 2The Seattle Times ran a story earlier this week about a good old fashioned hullaballoo at the John Stanford School: incoming principal Jesely Alvarez announced that students would be asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each school day.

While it is technically state law (and has been for decades) that the pledge be recited, the school district has historically left it up to individual principals whether to enforce it. JSIS’s previous principle, Kelly Aramaki, declined to enforce the rule, but according to the Times article, Alvarez is changing that:

 In a pair of letters sent to parents this week, Alvarez acknowledged some opposition from teachers but said that after a month of internal debate it was time “to move forward” in “following state law.”

“As adults in this school community, I believe it is important that we follow rules,” wrote Alvarez, who declined to comment for this story.

The pledge will be read over the PA system every Monday and recited in individual classrooms the other days of the week. Students who don’t want to participate will be allowed to sit or stand respectfully.

In case you’ve forgotten it from your childhood, the pledge reads:

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.

No doubt there will be some angry disagreement, but to us, the move seems weird and anachronistic, and Alvarez’s decision to begin enforcement oddly tone deaf. With the Tea Party on the right and Occupy Wall Street on the left, our nation’s frustration with our system of government has been reaching a greater pitch and resolution than it has for at least 40 years, and she decides that’s the time to insist that children swear a loyalty oath at the beginning of every school day? What good does this kind of blind recitation serve?

There’s no escaping the implication that refusal to recite the pledge will be interpreted as disloyalty to the Unites States rather than, say, a belief that our first loyalty should be to the Earth as a whole and to the well-being of all good people who walk it, regardless of which country’s borders they were born inside, or perhaps a discomfort with the pledge’s blurring of the church-and-state separation that defined our country’s birth.

In our opinion, that’s a crappy position to put a child or their parent in. There are better ways to teach civics. What do you think?

(Thanks for the tip, Doug. Photo by Steven Depolo)

  • Jan

    JKY has an interesting suggestion. Why not have those who want to do the pledge “opt in” rather than making those who don’t want to do it “opt out”. Principal Alvarez can gather the children whose parents want them to do this in the lunch room or gym before school to say the pledge. This would be a compromise that would meet the state law requirement. Nevertheless, I don’t think that minors should be reciting an oath, which is the same as a pledge.

  • Nancy M

    Flag Club!

  • a

    I´ve thought about that same possibility Jan and Nancy. It would be nice to find a way to meet the law and please pledge fans and pledge critics. With creative thinking, I think we could do it.

  • David

    JKY and Jan. That is an awesome idea!

    If parents are so big on their kids being exposed to the pledge then let their kids miss class time and interrupt their regular morning (lunch time or afternoon) routine.

    Someone should forward this to her. (I would, but she seems to have stopped replying to my emails.)

  • JSIS Mama

    She’s not budging. She doesn’t have to. Apparently the majority of parents at JSIS either support her decision or don’t have an opinion in either direction. The parents who don’t want the pledge seem to be in the minority, though certainly are more vocal about their opinions.

  • yo mera

    I am glad she is not budging. She shouldnt. I rather have a school leader that stands by her decisions.
    I am curious to know why she went as far as notifying us parents regarding a common practice in public schools. My kids former school pledged alliance to the flag regularly. Nothing wrong with that IMHO

  • buster g.

    It’s my understanding the Pledge recitation will not begin at JSIS on Oct. 31. Perhaps all of this to-do is just the Principal’s trick suitable for that date.

  • Parent

    My 1st grader said that they did, in fact, recite the pledge this past Monday. He chose to opt out. I would have supported his decision either way. His teacher told the class that they would be doing so every week and that they all had the choice to opt out if they so desired. He said it was explained to them fairly clearly, so I’m pretty sure this is not a Halloween prank…..

  • yo mera

    A lot of problems in this society are deeply rooted in giving too many choices to young children.
    By the time they become teenagers they are sick and tired of all the “choices” they were given early on and feel like they need to take control and do not want to listen to their parents and think their parents suck. Trust me, I know.
    Teachers should not give children that can barely write their names and wipe their bottoms the choice to “opt out” a school mandated, principal approved activity.

  • JKY

    yo mera, just as a clarification, the choice to “opt out” is written into the law and under such Federal Law, all students and teachers, have the right to participate or not participate as they choose. It is an individual choice provided by the law not a choice provided by the Teachers as you mistakenly assume.

  • yo mera

    A six year old – as smart as we want to think our children are- do not have the knowledge to understand Federal Law and other big words.
    Opt out in this case means to them to do what the school community is doing or not doing it at all. Can they opt out from doing homework as well? How about speaking quietly in the library? eating lunch in the designated areas?
    Kids need direction, instruction, and yes, lots of love and room to grow.

  • protected static

    What’s with this “Trust me, I know” nonsense? The IP addresses for “yo mera” and “JSIS mama” wouldn’t happen to be the same, would they?

  • DOUG.

    yo mera: The only thing that makes the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools even vaguely Constitutional is the ability to opt-out of reciting it. Your metaphor is inapplicable. Homework and the other things you mentioned are not written into the First Amendment, the establishment of a universal religion (i.e. “under God”) is.

  • JSIS Mama

    Nope! Not the same! My child is in 1st Grade as well and…to clarify… they did not recite the pledge. The teacher read the pledge, they talked about it, discussed how to be respectful of everyone’s choices and make everyone feel safe and basically prepared for next Monday. And for the record….my son will opt out. He is quite aware of what’s going on and why it is his choice to opt in or out!

  • JKY

    As an immigrant myself, coming from a contry that didn’t value individual freedoms, reading the comments such as the ones from yo mera and similar, reminds me too much of the kind of opressive government that my family and I fled from.

    I wonder if the folks who are so pro Pledge, really care about the Pledge and what it truly stands for or care more about enforcing their personal beliefs onto others.

    Choice is Freedom, if your children choose to say the Pledge they should be free to say it or if you as a parent decide to take that choice away from your children, that is your choice as well. My children and I chose to have a discussion about it, they asked really great questions, we listened to each other and respected each other’s points of view. My children will decide for themselves what is right for them, that is their choice and how lucky are they to live in a country that gives them that choice.

    My only problem as I had mentioned before is that, for those teachers and students who choose to opt out of saying the pledge or part of the pledge, they cannot opt out of being present during the pledge.

    That is why I had suggested to give folks with strong convictions about reciting the pledge a way to do so, while not imposing it on those who choose not to; by simply meeting a few minutes prior to star of the morning classes to recite the pledge. In my view that seems like a reasonable solution and a just one for all.

  • PJ

    Just arrived home from volunteering at a Seattle public elementary school just as or even more “diversified” as JS. The Pledge has been used every day for years without the wringing of hands and fits from the parents.
    I’m fascinated by all these postings day after day during typical “working” hours. Are any of you employed? If so, you must be doing all this on company time, which, I believe, is essentially stealing from your employer. If not employed, you have WAY too much time on your hands (fingers!) and really should find something/anything more constructive to do., especially NOT having a meeting!!!
    Try volunteering on a regular basis at a public school, particularly a different one than JS to get a “bigger picture” and discover that JS is not all that different and special. Most of all get over it and MOVE ON!
    Have you heard that Metro is planning on dropping the #26 Bus Route? You know, mass transportation vs. more cars? Take this one on and you can make a positive difference!!

  • a

    PJ, I would be much more impressed with a principled argument. That fact that the pledge seems to have this power to shut down thoughtful, respectful and compassionate conversation among its proponents has actually strengthened my opinion against it.

    It is obvious to me that a thread following an article about the Pledge of Allegiance is going to be about the merits and faults of the Pledge of Allegiance. N’est-ce pas?

  • PJ

    a…. This “thread” covers much more than merits and faults of the Pledge, if you would read through it all. Yes, a tiresome task. And a …you prove my point….WAY TOO MUCH time on your hands and you must beliieve you’ve nothing better to do!

    I’m soooo done…stick a fork in it….it’s OVER!

  • a

    PJ, (I am quite sure you are taking a bit of your time to look back at this thread- you are human after all) is it new for you to tell people angrily to stop talking about what they are talking about? Is it common for you to resort to an ad hominem argument rather than to take the issue itself on? Or is it something special about the pledge that is bringing this out in you?

    I have indeed read through all of it, and I find it really interesting. That’s why I’m still here.

  • Mark

    Frankly all of you opposed to the Pledge should pack up and move to Canada. The blatant disrespect that you show to our country is disgusting. Yes things may not be great in our country but I would rather be here than anywhere else. Nationalism is a good thing. We need to ban together to help get our great country back on track. The Pledge reaffirms this for us everyday. Your actions only make the situation worse. We need more Patriots not less.

  • protected static

    So glad you could contribute constructively to the conversation, Mark.

  • JKY

    How sad, un-American, and unconstructive the comments “pack up and move to Canada” truly are? On the one hand, you are passionately defending the Pledge, the very one that speaks of “liberty” (freedom) and “justice for all” while at the same time, telling your neighbors and their children (who go to school with your children) to “pack up and leave” simply because they have a different point of you and are speaking out about it.
    There is no need to confuse the two issues: a daily recital of The Pledge is not the same as showing respect to a country. If saying the Pledge is important to you, I respect that, but please don’t forget about the rest of the world that America is a part of. You can hardly believe that what happens in the rest of the globe, whether economically, environmentally, socially, medically, etc does not directly affect America and its people.
    John Stanford International School embraces (at least I thought it did) all its students, families, and teachers regardless of their nationality. It is a school with a view on global education; to teach, accept, and celebrate diversity and tolerance for other cultures, religions, nationalities.
    Pledging Allegiance to one Flag in today’s global world, where all of us (internationally speaking) are critically interdependent on one another for prosperity and peace, seems short-sighted indeed.

  • YupAnotherParent

    Interestingly enough, the action by this principal has divided the faculty, staff, parents, and from these posts, the community at large. I’ve got to wonder what possible pedagogical reasoning she had with this one. As earlier mentioned, this was her decision to act on this…

  • Marlin

    Come on folks. This country was founded on genocide, colonialism and slavery. We the people never meant blacks, first nation peoples, or even women. Today our country perpetuates war and strife all over the world. Democracy is only for the few who can afford it.
    The pledge perpetuates more uncritical, unthinking obedience and blind patriotism. The hell if I want my kid indoctrinated into this abject mind-waste.
    I seek a world without borders, where all peoples needs are met. Unfortunately to bring that about will take time, organizing and revolution.
    That is what I am teaching my kid.

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