September 30, 2007
High school students standing up for their beliefs
When I was in high school, there was a period during which I refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I would stand while it was being recited over the loudspeakers and by my peers, but would not repeat the words myself. It never occurred to me to actually try to change the pledge or the school’s policy of reciting it every day. I suppose I have the excuse of growing up in conservative Orange County, California, as opposed to hippie (and I use that word lovingly) Boulder, Colorado. Still, I’m impressed with these students at Boulder High School, who staged a protest of the pledge on Thursday:
Members of the student group say they have three main gripes with theway [sic] the traditional pledge is read at the start of second-period classes: It takes away from school time; it’s ignored or disrespected by mocking teens; and the phrase, “one nation, under God,” violates the separation of church and state.
It seems to me that their focus is primarily on the latter two gripes. As for me, I was never particularly bothered by the phrase “under God,” but that speaks more to my next point than to my being okay with faith being linked to patriotism.
What has bothered me since high school, though, and what I think the second gripe (“it’s ignored or disrespected by mocking teens”) speaks to, is that we were taught the pledge in first grade (and I went to a private kindergarten (my birthday was past the cutoff for public kindergarten, and I was very ready to start school), so I imagine many students learned it a year before I did), and then expected to recite it every school day for the next eleven years. As a result, how many children and adolescents actually have any idea what they’re saying? Rote memorization doesn’t generally lead to an engagement of the mind and heart (isn’t the pledge supposed to represent a love of and respect for our country?) — instead, it’s basic indoctrination. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find that frightening.
And to be honest, I love my country and am grateful to have been born here, since — among a number of other reasons — there are a lot of countries in which, having been born female, I’d be lucky to be alive now, at 27 — particularly given the amount of dissent I’ve been expressing since I was a teenager. But ultimately the flag is just a symbol, and I have qualms about pledging my allegiance to a symbol. I’ve seen references to the idea of pledging allegiance to the Constitution instead; that’s an idea I could get behind. It’s still a symbol of sorts, but it has more meaning in and of itself than a piece of cloth with a complex pattern can.
Hat tip goes to the Bad Astronomy Blogger, whose post contains some good insight.