I shared a post on Facebook, today – and wrote a little “rant” above a graphic that stated: “”It would be a better world if people fought as hard for every kid to have a good school lunch as they did for every kid to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Indeed it would. And a good education to go with that lunch. We could start by focusing on building a STRONG, LASTING foundation in the basics (sounds cliché, but reading, writing, and arithmetic), then move on as kids grew hungry for more books. Stop teaching to the test, and measure teachers’ success by which students succeed over the NEXT four years.
As for the Pledge, shouldn’t it mean something? There are many things we recite by rote memorization and custom that really ought to be said slowly, thought about, and chosen in private. Pledges and oaths might be publicly appropriate for soldiers and politicians – as promises to the rest of us – but how meaningful are they for grade schoolers who have no choice but to comply?
When my son was in Scouts, he led the Pledge on several occasions: Once, at the SD7 Democratic Convention in Houston; once at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Houston National Cemetery. It’s an appropriate ritual, at times and places like these – and one assumes voluntary participation. (He asked if he could do it – it wasn’t part of his volunteer duties – and he was accorded the honor.) So it’s not that I don’t want my kids saying the Pledge – but I don’t see the point of making it a daily, formulaic ritual at school. I doubt God cares if we include the words “under God” or not – and certainly not if we treat those less fortunate as if they were leeches on society or subhuman creatures.
I could say “da DA da-da-da DA da da…” and you’d recognize it by its cadence. Same with The Lord’s Prayer or Hail Mary. It’s not even just the “forced” aspect (really, no one’s going to beat a kid with a ruler for not doing it – the point here is that we spend too much time and emotional resources on trivial things, when there are SO many real things we could be working on that are far more important). If you’re going to PLEDGE something, or PRAY to a God that you believe in – it should be voluntary, heartfelt, and meaningful. It should also probably be in front of as few people as necessary, so peer and societal pressure aren’t coming into play.
I did a mean thing, years ago, on Microsoft Qna (some friends here may remember this) – I described a Boy Scout flag retirement ceremony, but without saying it was Boy Scouts and without providing a link to the U.S. Flag Code. I basically said, “You see a group of teenaged boys outside, cutting the American flag into strips. They are talking as they do this. One builds a fire. They continue talking, then drop the strips into the fire and watch the flag burn. One of them knocks on your door and asks for a shovel. What do you do?”
It’s disheartening to know how many flag-waving, patriotic adults do not know what the U.S. Flag Code actually says about anything – and would bash your kid over the head with a shovel.
We waste an awful lot of time and money arguing about the outward trappings of patriotism or religion, but appallingly little time investing in the things that make this country great, or the actions that might honor our God, or our conscience, assuming we believe in and value either. For what it’s worth, I’m not atheist but I don’t believe that religion is necessary for someone to be a moral, kind, compassionate human being. And in this life, here on earth, that’s what matters most. Perhaps reciting – and discussing – a school code of conduct and respect for teachers and fellow students would make more sense in school, if we believe that repetition of a public oath will bring about better citizenship.
When’s the last time you deeply thought about the words in The Lord’s Prayer – or the words of Matthew, before them? (See Matthew 6:1-8) Does it mean more if you say it louder or in front of more people? Do you get more points in heaven for wearing a bigger cross around your neck? Does it mean anything to say, “I’ll pray for you” and then not DO it? Does it mean anything to say that, and not help those in need, yourself?
Do you know the lyrics to our national anthem? (Hint: It’s not really, “Jose, can you see…” )
Does a forced apology mean anything to anyone, or is it just an example of power and submission? Who needs a wolf in sheep’s clothing? I’d rather wait for a sincere apology than to have an awkwardly forced one grudgingly given.