A while ago I read an article about a group of parents who were all pissed off because their kids were being exposed to the Pledge of Allegiance. At first I thought this had to be about the “under God” part, but it turns out the issue is with the notion of pledging your allegiance to one particular country.

The fuss is happening at the John Stanford International School, which is a public elementary school that offers a dual-language immersion programs in Spanish and Japanese, and sports “interior design elements reflecting a world culture.” Sounds like an interesting, progressive environment—and apparently until recently they’ve been been the one special snowflake school that doesn’t observe the Pledge. Even though it’s been mandated by district policy and state law for years.

A new principal decided that John Stanford needed to start following the rules, so an announcement went out to parents that the students would start reciting the pledge every morning. You know, just like every other kid in every other Washington school.

Naturally, because this is Seattle, some parents freaked the fuck out. A mother of a six-year-old said, “It pains me to think that at a school that emphasizes thinking globally we would institute something that makes our children think that this country alone is where their allegiance lies.”

Another parent apparently opposes the flag itself: “But it’s ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag,’ not even the country. I don’t think we should be making kids stand up and pledge to any one thing. It just totally goes against what this community is about.”

Yet another parent wrote in to say, “The pledge of allegiance is forced patriotism. It is indoctrination. The principal’s decision doesn’t take into consideration the diversity of cultures, values, nationalities of JSIS families and staff. And then there’s the ‘under God’ part…”

The policy went into effect in October, at which point flyers started showing up on posts near the school:

Screen shot 2011-11-04 at 1.09.32 PM
Photo credit Joshua Trujillo/seattlepi.com

I cannot even make this up: the flyers read, I pledge allegiance to the Earth and all it’s (ARGH POSSESSIVE APOSTROPHE FAIL) natural systems. Interdependence is what I seek, on one planet, with one people, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

So, okay. I can understand feeling uncomfortable about the “under God” section, which was just added in 1954. I can understand if you don’t want your child to have to say something he or she doesn’t believe in. I can understand advocating that the laws be changed about the pledge, if that’s what you’d like to see happen. But I cannot begin to understand how anyone thinks their school is so unique it shouldn’t be subject to the same laws as the rest of the state. Nor can I figure how these words are offensive to the various cultures in our country.

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.

I mean, are we not united, regardless of race, creed, religion, etc? Is it really so bad to remind ourselves that we’re in this mess together? Hell, I’m no traditionalist, but I like the idea of Riley’s super-diverse (like, way more diverse than this John Stanford International School, according to student demographics) school saying the pledge—to me it’s less RAH RAH GO TEAM AMERICA ALL OTHER COUNTRIES CAN SUCK IT, and more of a statement that we remain undivided, even when everything seems to be falling to shit around us.

Here’s the part that really makes me crazy about this whole thing: if students who don’t want to participate in the pledge THEY DON’T EVEN FUCKING HAVE TO. They’re allowed to quietly sit or stand, whatever they choose. No one’s forcing them to say it, no one’s forcing them to believe it. So what the hell?

What do you think about all this? Are you for/against the pledge in your kid’s school?


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