Pledge of Allegiance Saved in Mass Schools

After months of debate, Brookline school children will continue to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in their classrooms and those who wish not to recite it will continue to sit silently and respectfully.  The activist group that started the controversy was soundly defeated (95-76 with 9 abstaining members) in their attempt to thwart the rights of free speech and shut down expressions of patriotism.

The controversy began when Town Meeting member, Martin Rosenthal, who is also the head of an activist group named the Brookline Political Action for Peace (PAX) pushed for a ban on the recitation of the Pledge in schools, saying it had no educational value and that it made his “skin crawl” to think of the pressure placed on children when they saw their classmates reciting it.

Interestingly, in 2010, the principal of another school in Brookline had called for permission slips to be sent home to parents before students would be allowed to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  And in Arlington, MA a high school student made national news in 2010 when school officials denied his petition to allow easy access for students to voluntarily recite the Pledge.  The Arlington school district later reversed their decision.

The Pledge of Allegiance is among America’s most treasured traditions.  In a 2008 Rasmussen poll, one thousand likely voters were asked if they thought the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited in schools on a daily basis.  A resounding seventy-seven percent said yes. 

Obviously, the parents of youngsters in Brookline, MA seem to agree.  The idea behind Rosenthal’s proposal was to force each principal of  Brookline schools to decide where to recite the Pledge – in the classroom or in an assembly, the contention being that students who wish to remain seated during its recitation might be bullied.  In September, Rosenthal is quoted as saying the Pledge  puts “kids in an uncomfortable situation” and that it has no place in schools. 

Rosenthal claims to be “standing up for what’s great about this country”, but I tend to question such statements when the effort is to stop expressions of patriotism rather than strengthen them.  The arguments that the Pledge is a vow to a flag and is therefore meaningless or that there are better ways to play out one’s patriotism than by rote recitation are just plain stupid.  Children need to be taught early on what is great and good about America and the best way to do so is by having them memorize and recite the magnificent words in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

 Over the years, students should be taught lessons that focus on factual American history that is balanced, showing both our nation’s greatness and our weaknesses.  There ought to also be an emphasis on how our nation has corrected past wrongs.  But, too often students are taught an unbalanced version of American history portraying us as a bully sort of nation rife with weaknesses and prejudices.  With a fair and balanced approach to American history, over the years, students will completely understand their right to refrain from reciting the Pledge.  But my bet is that they will probably choose not to go that route.

Boston, Massachusetts was the place where the Pledge of Allegiance was created.  There is even a Pledge of Allegiance building in Boston, named such because it is where the Pledge was written and published in 1892.  It is sad that Massachusetts is now the site of so many attacks on the Pledge.  But thank God for the sensible citizens who still reside there.  I sure hope they continue to fight the good fight to defend the right of students to recite the noble words in the Pledge of Allegiance.



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