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« BFTP: Integrity | Main | Head for the Edge - last column »
Wednesday
Apr292015

Saying the Pledge or not?

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands indivisible, with liberty and justice for all (who can afford it).

I enjoy poking sacred cows now and then, and when the question came up on LM_Net, "Does your school have kids say the Pledge of Allegiance?" I (purposefully) interpreted the question to read "Should your school ask kids to say the Pledge?"

And I suggested that as long as the words "under God" remained in the Pledge, asking kids to say it violated their rights. Atheists and kids who might worship Allah, Budda, or woodland spirits may feel pressured to conform.

And just for a little snark, I also suggested adding the words "who can afford it" to the end of the pledge.

I got some push back from LM_Netters. No surprise there. Most of those disagreeing with me or giving me flack about even talking about a "political" topic in the LM_Net forum did so publicly. But also received quite a number of private e-mails those who agreed with me.  One has to wonder why the critics are usually public and the supporters private? Hmmmmmm.

There were a couple public comments that were great:

In NY, schools recite the pledge every morning.  However, students are not required to say the pledge.  I helpfully pointed this out to my homeroom teacher back when I was in high school (and then to the school administrators), and I put up with a lot of harassment from students AND my teachers for my refusal to say the pledge.  (I vividly remember my homeroom teacher saying every morning, "Those of us who are real Americans will now say the Pledge of Allegiance.")

I've always thought reciting the pledge smacked of the kind of indoctrination we despise in places like North Korea or Nazi Germany. We can love or be disappointed in our country as we see fit but mechanically reciting a daily pledge doesn't magically transform someone into some sort of patriot.

In as much as that we as librarians should be the guardians of intellectual freedom, and support all beliefs in public school systems, the comment was not just proper, but absolutely relevant. Avoiding these kinds of issues is in itself a "political" statement.  Whether to say the pledge should be contingent on which version of the pledge we are asking kids to say. "Under God" impinges on the rights of my atheist students and they should not be pressured to repeat it. 

If we as a profession don't take stands on these kinds of issues, they may as well just replace us all with technicians.

 

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Reader Comments (4)

Heartily agree!

April 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

Just chiming it to say that perhaps the people who emailed you privately were not afraid of any negative feedback, but were the ones who follow the LM_NET guidelines. As I understand them, we are only supposed to respond to the original poster, not to the entire list. I know I ignored every response to the Pledge query, because I wait for a hit, or summary of responses to be posted. For those of us running a library solo, the clutter of all those responses is too much of a time suck. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, Doug, and not a political statement. (And since I've taken the time to post, our students can pledge or not, without comment or consequences.)

April 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMary Clark

This topic is so loaded, and I am so glad you bring it up as you have. Living as we do in a nation-state-oriented world, I actually have no problem with the pledge as it existed pre-1950s. However, once the Knights of Columbus started messing with it and succeeded in strong-arming Congress to insert "under God" into a very meaningful "one nation indivisible" phrase which refers to our horrific Civil War, it is there I part company with the pledge.

I respect that the government wanted to distance itself from the Communists during the 50s, but I fear they did so while trampling on the rights of those of us who don't share the world view of conservative Roman Catholics. We share our precious country with millions who do not care to pledge allegiance to a particular deity, or on behalf of a particular deity, or under a particular deity, and the pledge now makes a mockery of the principles on which the United States was founded.

Okay, now I know I'm going to get a founding fathers lecture from someone by saying the above, so I'll say in advance that ya'll need to get to know your real founding fathers, not the cereal box versions.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBill Storm

'I pledge allegiance to liberty and justice for all.'

May 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBart Miller

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