Tuesday, January 03, 2012

They pledge allegiance

Someone shared this graphic on Facebook with the comment:  "As an American, I'm offended that this isn't done everyday in schools."   I thought, "Whoa, wait a minute, that's not true." I didn't  know other state laws, but I did know there's a law in New Jersey  requiring public schools to set aside time for the Pledge recitation, o.k. with me, & another law still on the books, that I don't like, requiring students to recite it. But I don't think the latter law has  been tested in decades & a teacher would be a fool to make a big deal of a student's refusal. I found a site, procon.org, with maps showing all state laws as they apply to schools & students.

Eight  states have no laws requiring schools to do  Pledge time, & five give schools the option, sending the choice to the districts.  Most of these states are in the south & midwest. All the rest, including California, Massachusetts & New York, require it at least once each week. Mississippi requires it only once each month. Most states requiring the Pledge are not  footnoted with special provisions, so I suppose they do daily recitations.

 For student participation, the map loosens up. 17 states have no law requiring student participation, Seven require it , including Texas, Jersey & Massachusetts, & the rest make it optional. The opt out laws vary, some requiring note from parent or  guardian.

I'm certain the Pledge now, as in my day, is recited more earnestly in grammar school than in middle or high schools. How it fares in inner city schools is probably up to the teachers, but don't think  the black & Latino teachers in those schools let it slide. Those teachers can be tough cookies &  it's a useful opportunity at the beginning of the school day  to make the younger kids quiet down, stand up straight & show some respect.

The important thing is that the recitation of the Pledge is very much a state's rights matter &  doesn't divide into left & right, blue state & red state.  It's one of the many non-issues that certain kinds of people assume is a problem in America, the implication  being that it's the fault of liberals that the Pledge isn't recited everywhere everyday.  Was it ever?

The FB commenter should be offended, but that the Pledge IS being done everyday.


Francis Bellamy was a former Baptist minister who preached that Jesus was a socialist and advocated income taxation, central banking, nationalized education, nationalization of industry, and other tenets of socialism. His challenge was how to replace the federalist view of the country (where states and individual rights were sovereign) with a nationalist one that would pave the foundation for a central socialist government.

The "one nation, indivisible" wording was especially important to Bellamy for achieving his vision of socialism through a consolidated, monopoly government. He even considered adding the the socialist bywords, "fraternity and equality", but knew that state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans.

Re-education of the public would prove difficult. But if American youth could to be taught "loyalty to the state", it would pave the way for the socialist utopia that was described in his famous socialist cousin Edward Bellamy's 'Looking Backward".

The place to start would need to be primary education. The public schools could be used teach blind obedience to the central state. They planned a "National Public School Celebration" in 1892, which was the first national propaganda campaign on behalf of the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a massive campaign that involved government schools and politicians throughout the country. The government schools were promoted, along with the Pledge, while private schools, especially parochial ones, were criticized.

Students were taught to recite the Pledge with their arms outstretched, palms up. This was the custom in American public schools from the turn of the twentieth century until around 1950, when it was apparently decided by public school officials that the Nazi-like salute was in bad taste.
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