Monday, November 06, 2006

Why the Germans are confused

When I lived in Germany, one of the things that I got asked about was the pledge of allegiance. The Germans didn't understand, in the wake of World War II, how we could require American schoolchildren to stand and pledge blind allegiance, not even to the country but to a symbol thereof.

Today, Rosynic doesn't understand either, and I'm with her. If we're going to require or expect kids to say the pledge, can't we at least allow ESL teachers to explain what the pledge means? And if we're going to be that fussy about using the word "God" in classrooms even for discussion, then maybe we really shouldn't have it in the pledge. At any rate, I'm definitely against requiring anybody to say something without allowing them the option to learn what it means.


The young fogey said...

Interesting that the Germans would question all that - they're right and yes, they learnt a hard historical lesson - as it's rather recent (written in the 1890s by a liberal statist Protestant minister IIRC) and a bit fascist-inspired (it was pushed by the government during the 1930s).

It would confuse at least as many Brits as you rarely see the national flag there... sometimes on government buildings and not in church.

As a writer put it when the Jehovah's Witnesses challenged the pledge requirement, the American flag wasn't meant to be a swastika.

The pledge and 'under God' (not added to the pledge until, what, 1954?) are really useful non-issues for neoconservatives to scare people with. Like flag-burning. Please. Of course one has the right to burn one but, because of what it's supposed to stand for, who would want to?

So if people want to take those two words out or better still get rid of the pledge altogether, that's fine with me.

Jeffrey said...

I wonder if explaining the pledge would be problem. In a class on history, or maybe even as a special class session would it not be appropriate to deconstruct the pledge in order to reconstruct it? I suppose under the current conditions it would take a brave teacher but if a religious (read believer) teacher could talk about the phrase under God and why it was put in historically and actually to show how that implies a higher power (read with a nod to the 12 step programs) and thus implies a power greater than nationality and not seek to proselytise and a non-religious teacher could acquiesce the same point could it not be taught in such a manner? Is there an unrational fear to talk about how religion has affected our history for high school teachers? How does one teach early American lit? Does one include such American luminaries as Jonathan Edwards? What about the majority of early American Lit that was inherently religious?

I agree blind repetition of anything is problematic. I hope that we have not so crippled our teachers so that they are unable to create educated students. Would it not be appropriate for a class at any level to talk about why some students say and some do not say the pledge? Or even to have the students discuss the current fervor over the pledge and some of its segments?

I like to believe it is not so, but maybe it is just wishful thinking.
Thinks to which I pledge my allegiance:
my wife
my church
my state
my country
my god (God)

Although on the two penultimate I may be in a different mood after the election, but is that not the point? Just because someone is elected who I disagree with even someone I did not vote for does not allow me to opt out of the system. Alegiance means different things in different contexts does it not?

It has been a long time since I have said the pledge. I wonder how many kids say it half asleep barely caring just waiting to get it over? Maybe it is less effective than some would hope.

Oh well, back to the movie . . . and pie . . . mmmm, pie.