Texas kindergartners graded on reciting pledges.

I wrote awhile back about how Texas had passed a law requiring a moment of silence and recitation of pledges to both the American and Texas flags. Now it seems that at least one elementary school will be grading their kindergartners on how well they know their pledges as well as state and national flags. Realizing that this could run afoul of past Supreme Court rulings that made it clear that mandatory recitations are not Constitutional, the school is saying that any child who refuses to recite the pledge won’t be graded on it, but would still be graded on the flags.

DallasNews.com | News for Dallas, Texas | Irving News

Although the district doesn’t require anyone to say the pledge, kindergartners could feel pressured to recite the pledge, said Dr. Wermiel, who teaches classes on constitutional law and the Supreme Court. The point of the Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette is to not make it difficult for someone to opt out and to not feel pressured. Constitutional questions would hinge on that.

“Putting it on the report card seems to make it more coercive,” he said. “I think it adds to the pressure that the state is applying to profess this belief.”

Several teachers interviewed for the story seem to think that this is an unfounded concern.

Jane Lampton, principal at Barton Elementary, said she does not think children feel pressured to say the pledge.

“It’s no big deal. We have several children who do not participate in it. It’s part of their religious beliefs,” she said. “I haven’t had any parent come to me.”

Ed Gonzalez, an elementary teacher who is also president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators in Irving, said he has not heard concerns from teachers about pledge requirements. He has had students who do not recite the pledge.

“I don’t make an issue of it. I don’t think any teacher would. It’s not a big deal.”

Trustee Michael Hill said he believes the district’s policy has enough leeway to prevent students from feeling pressured.

“Irving, historically, whether it’s the school district or the community, has been a very conservative community,” he said. “I’m a supporter of it.”

Which is fine and all, but one line in the story caught my attention:

    The district maintains records on the number of students districtwide who request not to say the pledge.

I realize I’m showing my cynical side again, but if this is no big deal then why does the district maintain records on the number of students who refuse to recite the pledges?

13 thoughts on “Texas kindergartners graded on reciting pledges.

  1. To put a slightly less fearful spin on it:  maybe they’re just keeping records so they know whom not to grade?

    But you’re right; the whole thing is frightening.  Grading kids on how well they parrot patriotism …

  2. So that you know, I’m not wild about forcing kids to pledge. What sort of meaning does a forced pledge have anyway?. I would say that when I was in school we did it every morning and I turned out OK, but I think that would spark the wrong debate. However, I remember that it was optional. I guess you could say that it created social pressure to comply, but I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.  Isn’t that exactly how we learn to deal with society?

    But the real question I have for you folks who are clearly against things like a momnet of silence and a pledge to the flag is this: What if we did not have any of that and some kid felt obligated through actual patriotism and belief in God, to begin their day by standing and giving the pledge to the flag and kneeling for prayer? Would he need to suffer for disrupting his class? What if the majority of the class did this too?

    I am envisioning my high school, where all the rooms opened to the outdoors, and those doors were typically locked until a few minutes before the day started. So it’s not like I could arrived early and done it, I’d have had to use class time or been run over by kids racing to their desks.

  3. You want to start your day by pledging allegiance and praying, do it at home BEFORE you get to school.  There is NO REASON to have to have it in the school unless you’re trying to get the other kids to do it along with you.

    Instead of having kids memorize the Pledge to prove their patriotism, let’s have them memorize the Bill of Rights.  Now, THAT’S patriotic.  Some of their parents might even end up becoming familiar with it too.

  4. For that matter, most public schools have a flagpole out front which are already used by Bible clubs for a morning prayer session. You could always recite the Pledge while you’re at it.

    Incidentally, it’s not so much that I have a problem with the Pledge being recited (as long as kids can opt out) as much as I have a problem with the Pledge in it’s current format. Take it back before the 1954 “improvement” and I’d be happy.

  5. Les, you went to school after the ‘54 change, but back when kids still were asked to recite it each morning (at least in all of the school districts I lived in). And that affected your religion how, exactly?

    And it does rain and snow out, in Syracuse, where we lived for 7 years, most of school year was not a time you’d want kids outside standing around for long.

    Geekmom, public displays of faith or patriotism should not be legal? Or you just feel they are socially inappropriate?

    I’m down with the idea of memorization of the founding documents, and let’s not leave out the declaration. Oh, and my kids’ school DOES have them memorize them. But then, they don’t go to public school.

  6. David, targeting a school as a venue for public proclamations of personal belief (whether it be patriotism, religion, politics, love for Jean-Luc Picard, or promotion of Skippy peanut butter) is just plain inappropriate.  No, it’s not illegal, nor should it be, but I have to question the motives of anyone who wants to do it in a place and time set aside for authoritative education.  It’s irrelevant to the state curriculum, as it is in the workplace when your job has nothing to do with your personal beliefs.

    Why would someone FEEL the need to stick their faith out there and show it off, anyway?  It’s that obnoxious proselytizing reflex, is what it is.  Most people of other faiths that do NOT proselytize are perfectly happy to perform their rituals within the circle of their family and their community.  They don’t NEED to go out into public places and parade their faith and their patriotism in front of people who may feel differently.

    In fact, there ARE cultures which consider such religious and patriotic grandstanding to be infantile and in poor taste.  Just sayin’.

  7. What cultures, geekmom? I must confess ignorance and curiosity.

    And school is not totally analogous to the workplace.

    Moreover, I feel that I

  8. Hey David, I grew up in Fulton, just north of Syracuse (what happened to the Orangemen?!). We probably share many psychoses.

    Elwedriddsche, I have a good friend who lives in Potsdam. I am amazed at the aversion to anything that resembles nationalism the German people have. It’s fascinating how patriotism can be morphed into nationalism.

    We defended our country by attacking Iraq…. No WMDs? Was it patriotic? Nationalistic? If patriotism is fidelity to our fellow citizens, then why is it necessary to pledge allegience to a flag?…. A flag is a symbol, symbols can be hijacked. Ah! WMDs are symbols too! Thus, the best defense is a strong offense!

    There’s not much logic there but it feels good. Rush is right! (Rush is high).

  9. In Oz, there’s a fair amount of disdain for flag-waving jingoism and the like.
    The politicians like it, but your average person in the street is likely to think, “Get your hand off it, you wanker!”
    Ever heard a crowd of Aussies singing Advance Australia Fair? :chuckle:

  10. maryh, why, thank you

    My fundamental problem with patriotism is that most people practice it like religion - i.e. within their personal comfort zone. They focus on the “good stuff”, while conveniently glossing over the not-so-great issues. If Germans want to make their country a better place to live in, but forego flag waving, then that form of quiet patriotism is just fine with me.

    Nothing makes you appreciate your home country more than being away from it…

    Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now.

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