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Pledge of Allegiance to Dissent: An Intolerant 'Excess of Liberty'?


“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.”

An Arkansas fifth-grader made news recently by claiming there is no “liberty and justice for all” in America as his reason for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance during his school’s daily patriotic exercises.

Red Skelton could’ve taught him a thing or two:

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Of course, the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that as long as such dissent is practiced in a non-disruptive manner a student is acting well within his Constitutional rights — his faulty reasoning for the dissent being irrelevant — and he may not be compelled to participate by either the school, or the state.

Teachers and administrators are strictly prohibited from singling out such peaceful dissent for discipline, admonishment or public ridicule.

Any teacher or administrator doing so should swiftly and forthrightly be subjected to reprimand or discipline including assignment to an appropriate Teacher Quality Enhancement Training program in order to mitigate any future injustices on their part.

The Pledge itself takes all of fifteen seconds to recite — which is likely a main reason most states and public school boards ascribe it for compliance with their respective education codes, policies and regulations — yet the Pledge, as with standardized patriotic exercises, is designated to inculcate patriotic values upon our nation’s children.

These values — i.e., love of and devotion to country — include American Exceptionalism, which secures even the Liberty and human rights to dissent against that very love and devotion.

Contrary to popular opinion however, dissent is obviously not de facto the ‘highest form of patriotism.’

As Socrates warns the ages in Plato’s Republic:

“[D]emocracy has her own good [Freedom], of which the insatiable desire brings her to dissolution… the father grows accustomed to descend to the level of his sons and to fear them, and the son is on a level with his father, he having no respect or reverence for either of his parents; and this is his freedom… the truth being that the excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction… above all in forms of government… The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery.”

Is it an excess of liberty that incites a fifth-grader to irrational dissent against a pro forma patriotic exercise, and in the process tell his substitute teacher to “go jump off a bridge”?

Perhaps, but that is for his parents to decide, the Supreme Court moots further argument.

There is however a parallel issue that might be worthy of consideration:

Can state and local school boards compel teachers to lead the Pledge of Allegiance in their classrooms?

The Supreme Court held in Newdow v. Elk Grove 2004 that, yes, in fact they can:

Congress prescribed a Pledge of Allegiance, the State… required patriotic observances in its schools, and the School District chose to comply by requiring teacher-led recital of the Pledge of Allegiance by willing students.

Hopefully teachers unions and under-their-thumb school boards won’t exploit this latest attack against the Pledge as a destructive excuse to reject and undermine its original intent, i.e., allegiance to the American Republic in all her glory and the values inculcation thereof.

Hopefully as well, outside political advocacy groups will be barred as sponsors of so-called “Tolerance Through Education” programs that intrude outside Lawyer/Facilitators — without prior parental notification – into classrooms as a means of creating political correctness Pledges of Tolerance that students can be shamed to abide, while concurrently pressured to diminish the traditional Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.

Whenever public schools ignore or revise long-standing Patriotic Exercises policy requiring simply the Pledge, or Star Spangled Banner, replacing those with near meaningless vagaries like “Appropriate patriotic exercises also include, but are not limited to, songs, poems, quotations and discussions related to the development of citizenship in a democracy” one begins to wonder whether rulebooks are any longer worth the paper they’re printed on.

What values should the required daily patriotic exercises in public schools inculcate in American students?

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