Saying the Pledge of Allegiance

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Solon, Apr 7, 2014.

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  1. Solon

    Solon New Member

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    I am cognizant of the rule against political discussion and I am not wanting that for this thread. For a variety of reasons, including political and religious, I do not wish to make the pledge.

    It's been so long since I actually said the thing that I've only just now realized that I take objection to it. Last Thursday was my first day as a high school substitute teacher. It was just one of many curveballs when the intercom buzzed in my second period class and told everyone to stand and recite. The classroom flag was located in the back, so nobody noticed my lack of participation.

    On Friday, I had forgotten about the pledge and was yet again taken unawares. The flag, like me, was in the front of the class. I turned, faced the flag, and pretended to speak the words.

    Today, I was clever enough to remember the time for the pledge and positioned myself at the opposite end of the room when the time came.

    I have some concerns about my situation. First, I am concerned about the impact my not saying the pledge might have on the students. Will it have an impact on their regard for me and thus adversely affect my ability to teach? I hope one day to teach government, so would my displayed 'lack of patriotism' have a large impact on my ability to teach the subject? If I am asked about why I won't pledge my allegiance, should I explain my various objections or would explaining my religious, political, and philosophical stances be overstepping my authority as a teacher? I've attempted to hide my not saying it; would this be fair to those students who might not wish to say it either?

    Next, I am concerned about the impact it may have on my job security, or lack thereof. I've still got the new-sub smell and I want to do all I can to ensure I keep getting classes. Do any of you know how your administrators might react if it became known that you won't say the pledge?

    I'm already a bit of an odd duck. I teach in rural Oklahoma, I have long hair, and I "look like I'm 15" (at age 24). To help separate myself from the students, I've been showing up in slacks and a tie. The principal and male teachers seem to wear khakis and polos regularly, so I seem to be the most formally dressed guy there. I've not received a whole lot of guidance and I'm getting worried I'm that nail that's about to be hammered. This whole pledge thing is just one thing to add to the pile. Does anyone have any suggestions?
     
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  3. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    If you're okay with mouthing the pledge, that's probably the way to go. If you aren't okay with that, then you need to do what you need to do.
     
  4. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    It sounds like you know what you should be doing. Pretending is fine. If, for some reason, a kid makes a comment, don't feel obliged to give any sort of concrete answer. It's better not to engage. On the flip side, I have noticed that one of my students doesn't stand for the pledge and I consider it none of my business. No one is required to do so.
     
  5. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Some things in school are not about you.
     
  6. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I don't agree that you should fake it.
     
  7. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    I don't think it's a big deal at all. I would just stand in the back of the room and no say anything. It's weirder to mouth it, and at that point you might as well just say it out loud.

    The class next to me does it each morning. I never think to, so we don't. It is the least of my concerns during the school day. If we had to do it at our school, of course I would. But we don't have to, and I just never think to. I wouldn't think anything of a student or adult who politely refrained from saying it. That's what our country is all about, after all!

    I think the key is to be as un-assuming as possible. Just stand in the back until it's over and then continue on with business as usual! ;)
     
  8. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Would you address the pledge and your objections in your future government classes?
     
  9. Sam Aye M

    Sam Aye M Mr. Know-It-All

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    I don't recite the pledge. I stopped when I was in the fifth grade, and have never really done it again except to teach youngsters while at work. These days, when I am caught in a classroom during the pledge, I just stand quietly, face the flag, and respectfully wait until it is over. One teacher approached me about it, and I just stated "I haven't said the pledge in years," and that was the end of the conversation. I think (I hope), for the most part, if you are respectful, no one would really care.

    Personally, I wouldn't "fake it," by mouthing the words. That's just me.
     
  10. Solon

    Solon New Member

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    I think, if I were to cover controversial issues, I would try my best not to advertise my personal opinion towards the issue.

    But it seems like controversy is a hornet's nest that I shouldn't go near given my current level of experience in teaching.... Which is currently three days.
     
  11. teach1

    teach1 Companion

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    This seems like one of those things that could turn into a big deal if you make it into one. If not, you'll be fine.

    I wouldn't pretend to say it... frankly, that seems a bit ridiculous to me. You could just stand there quietly and respectfully until it is over. If you feel more comfortable, position yourself so that you are behind the students watching them say it. Besides, always best to have your eyes on the students regardless! That is probably what I would do.

    If a student notices and asks, a simple "don't worry about me Susie" should be fine. Students will ask you lots and lots of questions and there is nothing wrong with being vague sometimes and/or redirecting them :)
     
  12. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) says you don't have to say the pledge. How you handle it is up to you. When I was subbing, I usually explained to the class that even if you didn't say the pledge, you still had to be respectful.
     
  13. HeatherY

    HeatherY Habitué

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    I wouldn't worry about not saying it. Just stand quietly.

    If you do get a job teaching gov., I hope you actually don't tell your kids your reasons. The best teachers are the ones who guide students to their own path. So you can play devils advocate and use the Socratic method, but I wouldn't shove my personal opinions on them, just like you wouldn't talk about the reasons you are a certain religion to students.

    Are you coming in dressy, but scruffy? Is your long hair well groomed? If you look young, then yes, you do need to dress more formally than the other guys. And you might consider cutting your hair if it's holding you back from looking your age, though some guys rock long hair.
     
  14. LisaLisa

    LisaLisa Companion

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    We do the pledge in my classroom each morning. We have frequent visitors including administrators, teachers, specialists (occupational therapists, speech and language, P.E., etc.), parents, and others. Some participate in the pledge and some do not. It's a personal matter.
    I don't always recite it but that's because I'm trying to keep students on task (including when I taught Gen Ed). It's a matter of respectful behavior - what you are modeling.
    The students will pick up on what you are and are not doing no matter what. If you are evasive or dismissive about your participation they will wonder what you are hiding.
     
  15. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    My close friend is a Jehovah's Witness. She does not say the pledge. She does not even stand for it. She sits quietly and waits. Her students stand and say the pledge if they wish.

    I stand and say it every day, but I do not require students to do the same. They are required to be silent and still (not working), but that's it. I have another fellow teacher who full on requires students to stand. As my students say, "you do you. " :p If you don't make it a big thing, no one else will
     
  16. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    It is against the law to require students to stand. There have been court cases about this.
     
  17. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I agree with a few others that this probably won't become an issue if you don't make it one. Most students won't even notice that you don't say it as long as you don't make a big deal about it. If you're comfortable standing during the pledge, do that. It's okay if you prefer to sit, but you might get more questions from students so you should be ready with a response.

    I say most of the pledge with my students, but I leave out one line. Most of my students have never noticed this, and most of those who have noticed don't say anything to me. In the past decade or so I've only been asked about it by maybe three or four students. To them I just say that I prefer not to say that line. They didn't push it and the issue was dropped.
     
  18. Solon

    Solon New Member

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    I'd like to give the case a more scholarly analysis, but there aren't enough hours in the day. I did a bit of reading on the opinions of the case, but I only got as far as Jackson's opinion. It's pretty ambiguous as to whether the free speech standards can be applied to teachers. An argument would have to be made that because the pledge is not crutial to the student's education (if I recall, I'm on the fourth para of Jackson's opinion), that it is not requisite for a teacher to say it. The counter argument, going off a different interpretation of Jackson's opinion, might say that free speech only extends to citizens- not necessarily 'officials'. Indeed, allowing teachers to have complete freedom of speech might be hazardous to the students' quality of education.

    The Barnette case deals specifically with students rather than teachers.

    But with this aside, I'm not concerned about the legality of the matter. Legal protections might keep you on the payroll if you're lucky, but playing those cards on an employer won't win you friends.
     
  19. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    I don't know if this would work for you, but I face my students and lip-sync the words. I do that because it makes them sound better and prevents the kids who want to say it really fast or loud.
     
  20. greendream

    greendream Cohort

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    :yeahthat:
     
  21. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    There was a case the Supreme Court heard that specifically allows teachers to bypass reciting the Pledge on religious grounds, but I don't have that case name memorized. For the record, I have no problems reciting the Pledge, but I did when I was younger, so I did my research then.
     
  22. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Every day, every public school in Texas is required by law to lead the students in the U.S. pledge, the Texas pledge and a moment of silence. There is no requirement that the students or teachers specifically *say* any of it. I don't say either pledge for my private reasons, and every now and then, I'll have a kid ask me about it. I just shrug it off when they do, and they drop it. If someone were to push it, I would just say freedom of speech is a beautiful thing and not explain it further.

    And just as a side note, we say the pledges every day as a school in the cafeteria together. I would say 50% of the kids are silent. No one reprimands them. It's no big deal. Say it if you want to, don't say it if you don't.
     
  23. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    It won't be legal to force you to say the pledge.

    However, you should absolutely NOT explain your objections to the students. That absolutely could be overstepping your bounds as a teacher. Technically you could tel them off-hours, I suppose, but I don't think that would be especially prudent.

    As for the rest, most of it will really fall under administrator's discretion. They'll get to decide who to bring in as subs, and won't really have to give a reason (you could technically sue them if they're specifically passing you over for religious reasons, but getting evidence that that's the case is unlikely).

    If/when you teach government you can certainly discuss the reasons that some do not say the pledge (without mentioning yourself) and why our system allows that -- and you can do that with oodles of patriotism over the US value of freedom and individuality (one of my favorite foreign statutes is from Japan, regarding flag-burning: it's illegal to burn any country's flag, except Japan's).

    Personally I like the pledge overall, except I think we introduce it wrong and it shouldn't have a religious component -- I think it should be a conscious decision in the early teen years rather than imposed from elementary. Tell elementary kids they "can't" say it, or that it doesn't count if they say it, and that it doesn't count for non-citizens either (for some reason, I've seen schools made almost entirely of noncitizens where they say the pledge, and find this completely bizarre).
     
  24. underthesun

    underthesun Rookie

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    I'm a bit confused by this. Are you suggesting we should tell elementary kids not to say it? And that they can't say it if they aren't citizens? Or have I completely misunderstood you?
     
  25. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I'm saying we should not introduce it at all at the elementary level, but if elementary kids ask about it they should be told it will be introduced when they're ready, and yes that we should to tell them not to say it until then. To treat it as a rite of passage, a significant event in childhood after they've understood it rather than an indoctrination before they're ready to understand it, would be a better approach in my opinion. Contracts aren't valid with minors, why should be be treating a promise of allegiance to our nation with less seriousness than an apartment lease?

    Of course there's freedom of speech, so I'm not saying it should be literally forbidden to say it.

    The rationale for noncitizens is because (assuming they have another citizenship) they already owe their allegiance to some other nation. For them to say the pledge is essentially inauthentic, and to encourage or coerce them into saying it could be viewed as making a mockery of the pledge.
     
  26. SF_Giants66

    SF_Giants66 Cohort

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    When I become a teacher, I actually not only plan on not participating in the pledge, but informing students that it is within their rights to not stand and say the pledge if they prefer not to.

    I don't care if I get 100 complaints about me called in my first day on the job.
     
  27. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    That first day might prove to be your last. :(
     
  28. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    It shouldn't be, especially not in a public school. He just described my European History teacher's actions, and he was respected greatly.
     
  29. SF_Giants66

    SF_Giants66 Cohort

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    The reason I say that is because some people I've had discussions with started resorting to personal insults and attacks simply because I've said that kids shouldn't have to say the pledge if they don't want to. People have called me a communist over this.

    All it will take is for me to tell kids they can pass if they don't want to say it to get complaints if some of the students have some crazy patriotic parents, but even without a union, firing someone over that would be discrimination, and I have friends at the ACLU and FFRF that would have them on the news so quickly they would have to cut off their phone lines and social media pages to escape the public, so I'm not worried about getting complaints when it comes to doing the right thing.
     
  30. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    If that's the hill you want to die on, go for it. For me, this is one of those "just because you can doesn't mean you should" sorts of things.

    There are plenty of ways to talk to kids about saying or not saying the pledge in an educational, easy-going way. The way you're presenting it here, I get the feeling that you have a sort of "I wish someone would...." attitude about the whole thing, like you're daring someone to say something to you about it. I feel like that sort of hostility is just not appropriate for the workplace, especially for a brand new teacher trying to get used to the system and make a name for himself. Taking a really hostile stance over an issue like this is a great way to get yourself onto admin's radar, and that's not a place that any new teacher wants to be.

    As for the potential for a discrimination suit or whatever...okay. Just consider that there could be a lot more fallout than you might think. A discrimination lawsuit could take years to get resolved, during which time you might not have any regular income, insurance, or job references. How would you support yourself during that time? Is it reasonable that you would give up a regular paycheck and everything that it brings you (food, shelter, clothing) in order to stick it to someone over something that absolutely doesn't have to escalate into a big deal at all? And even if you were successful with a lawsuit, do you really believe that you'll be able to go right back into your position or a new position without recourse? Trust me, there will be recourse.

    It honestly seems like a very silly and immature attitude to have about the pledge, when the exact same result can be achieved through professional, courteous, and educational behavior which most administrations would totally support.

    And just to be clear, I do think that there is a time and place for a strong, unpleasant stance on certain issues, even when that means making administration unhappy. I just believe that those sorts of stances should be well-considered beforehand and truly worth it, not merely made because they can be made or because I want to assert my power.
     
  31. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    SF, I say, "Go for it." if that is really how you want to handle it.
     
  32. SF_Giants66

    SF_Giants66 Cohort

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    I'm misunderstanding what you are all trying to say. Are you saying that I should just keep my mouth shut, because informing students of their constitutional rights could cause controversy?

    Why aren't all teachers telling students that the pledge is optional? When I was a student, I was under the impression that the pledge was required.

    I'm not saying I'm looking to get into fights my first day on the job, but what I'm saying is that a school can't let you go on those grounds, and so what if a parent calls in and says I told the students I wasn't participating in the pledge and they could opt out if they wanted to as well? What are they going to say to that? They should be saying, "We can't force someone to say the pledge, and they are allowed to opt out, so he was right."
     
  33. teach1

    teach1 Companion

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    I could be wrong here, but I think what some people are saying is that coming in on your first day and making a small speech to the students "I am not saying the pledge because it is my constitutional right, and you don't have to either" could actually backfire on you (even though of course you are correct).

    Students are children, and children easily misconstrue things, sometimes without even realizing it. Imagine if Bobby tells Susie, "We don't have to say the pledge in ABC class because TEACHER doesn't like the pledge and thinks we shouldn't say it either."

    Obviously not true, but you are the one who brought the topic up in the first place. Personally, I think it would be easier for you to just NOT say the pledge, and then if any questions come up you could explain to students why. Therefore, if a parent calls complaining you could explain "Billy asked me why I wasn't participating in the pledge and I explained it to him in a professional way."

    Personally, if I were you, I'd stick to what I believed in but I wouldn't go out looking for a fight on the first day. If the students see you not saying the pledge, I think they will understand it is not required of them.
     
  34. SF_Giants66

    SF_Giants66 Cohort

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    What if going over the agenda the first day I started out with something such as, "The day starts with the pledge if you'd like to participate, but if you choose not to participate, please just sit or stand quietly, and if you choose to participate, please don't make others feel bad for choosing not to." Is that better?
     
  35. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    When I was in a traditional classroom, my words were, "You are not required to say the Pledge, but I require you to be respectful."
     
  36. TnKinder

    TnKinder Companion

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    When admin gets ready to fire you it won't be because you informed students that they don't have to say the pledge. It will be because after 100 complaints they don't think your a good fit for the school. If you are in an at will state it won't matter the reason. If they don't get rid of you for numerouse complaints, they will after giving you a year's worth of bad observations. There's one way to skin a cat.

    On a side note there is nothing wrong with not saying the pledge or even explaining to students why you don't when they asks. The problem is your attitude, like you have something to prove. You have to consider what you say and how you say it, and most importantly how the students perceive it.
     
  37. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    On the first day of school, I say to my students "When the Pledge of Allegiance begins, I expect everyone to stop working and remain silent. Whether you stand and/or recite is your business. I always will and I appreciate those who also do, but it's your choice. Silence, however, is not."

    I have never (in real life) heard of parents complaining over a teacher's pledge policy, but I would expect my school to stand up for me if some crazy parent actually did so. Based on my experience, I believe they would.
     
  38. Ellybean

    Ellybean Rookie

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    This became a HUGE issue in my school when I was still a high school student.

    There was one girl in particular who refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance. She would just sit there, calmly in her chair, while everybody else stood and recited it. Well the teacher freaked out about that and brought it up with our disciplinary director, who said that wasn't allowed. So then they arranged for her to get a pass from my main office and come into class late everyday, so she wasn't disturbing the peace or whatever. That lasted for a while... then they decided that they couldn't have her coming into class late everyday. So they had her come back into class and forced her to stand, but she didn't have to say it. Meanwhile she was really agitated by all of this, even got the ACLU involved. Eventually they allowed her to not say the pledge and just sit.

    I would have no problem discussing things like this in class. I think we need to talk about "What does the pledge of allegiance actually mean?" instead of just chanting it mindlessly. Talking about your position one way or the other doesn't mean forcing it on others.
     
  39. SF_Giants66

    SF_Giants66 Cohort

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    Personally I think most of the kids don't really care much about the pledge. They seem to really just be having a contest over who can say it in the funniest and most ridiculous sounding voices.

    However, I think misconceptions really should be cleared up about it. For example, many students are raised by stupid parents with the idea that the pledge is part of the foundation of our country, and that it has been inspired by the founding fathers. They are also brought up with this ridiculous idea that this is a Christian country, when the word "god" and "Christian" don't even appear in the constitution, and the Treaty of Tripoli explicitly states "We are not a Christian country." Also, they are being given a load of garbage usually about how we are "one nation, under god," and they are told it has always been that way. Perhaps they forgot that those words had nothing to do with the pledge since 1954, and "in dog we trust" wasn't part of money until 1957.

    Obviously, the whole religious debate is way too dynamic and profound to get into in class, but I don't think mentioning a historical fact that the pledge has been changed over time should be beyond reason to state.
     
  40. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I agree.

    The problem is not the pledge or your position on whether it should be said. The problem is an attitude about it (or what appears to be an attitude).

    I would also refrain from ever suggesting that many students are raised by stupid parents. While some parents out there might be less than stellar, I would argue that most of them are doing their best. I would further argue that you will struggle extensively as a new teacher if you develop an "us versus them" attitude about parents. Their children's success in your classroom depends on a collaborative effort between you and the parents. Even if you can't be actively positive, you can at least maintain some neutrality, rather than the seriously hostile attitude you've got going on. (I'm sensing a theme here.) Students who feel that you've offended their parents, along with the parents who themselves feel offended, are not going to be your allies. Just wait until they start lining up outside the principal's office to complain about you and things you've done. They will have lists of all your infractions and perceived infractions. They will be out for blood. Depending on your admin, they might just get it (figuratively, of course). I've seen it happen. In most cases, the teacher was sort of asking for it because he or she was a complete jackass, ridiculously rude, and clearly believed that he or she was better than everyone else in the room, school, and community. It doesn't usually end well for those sorts of teachers.
     
  41. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I agree that many of them don't care. The solution is to teach about the pledge, as you've suggested, in an educational, non-confrontational way. I'm not getting the impression that you can be non-confrontational about this issue, so I would recommend that you avoid any talk about the pledge altogether. Just my opinion.

    I've never had the weird voices thing, and students at my school have said the pledge every day since the school opened. That seems like a classroom management issue, not a pledge issue.
     
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