Total Pageviews

Friday, February 17, 2012

Back to school - The coercive pressure of the Pledge and "Moment of Silence"

Today my son was recognized as January's Student of the Month for his class. As his parents, his father and I were invited to attend the assembly where he would receive his award. It had been a tough couple of weeks keeping it a secret from the kiddo and I couldn't wait to see him receive the recognition he deserved.

We took our seats and watched the kids pour into the gymnasium and I was struck with how different it was from when I was in elementary. My elementary school was for kindergarten through 5th grade, but Patrick's school was from pre-K through 8th. Where we would be lead into the gymnasium in an organized fashion, each grade separated into sections, each class separated into two rows - one for boys, one for girls; this school had children running around the gymnasium, no teachers were seen for the older children who came in first, and the lower grades' classes all sat on the floor in a disorganized group.

But that is where the dissimilarities ended. The first item on the agenda? The Pledge of Allegiance followed by a moment of silence. Everyone was told to stand until the moment of silence had ended. Now, back in elementary I had bought into Christianity and wasn't bothered by the Pledge - though, I don't think I really understood what it what it meant until at least middle school.

I know that they recite the Pledge every day in Patrick's class and I have told him countless times that he does not have to stand for it, and he does not have to recite it, and he says that he sits it out. However, today he stood. I was too far away to see if he actually recited it, and he's still in class now, so I can't ask... yet. His father and I remained seated during the Pledge and prayer moment of silence.

I'm not sure if he felt pressured because it was the principal leading the proceedings that made him stand at attention, or if he just tells me that he sits it out every day, but says it anyway. Whatever it is, I can't blame him or get upset with him for caving into the peer pressure. As I sat there while everyone around me, except for Barry, was standing, I felt extremely uncomfortable. I felt like an outsider - like I wasn't welcome. Oh sure, I could have blended better - I could have stood up, repeated the Pledge, or at least stood there "respectfully" - but why should I need to? Why should my son feel pressured in repeating something that he does not understand?  Why should children pledge allegiance to ANYTHING?!? Why should adults?

There are around 400 children in Patrick's school. Certainly, the majority are Christian, or at least, would consider themselves Christian, as the majority in this country is Christian. But not all of them are. Patrick is not - technically he would be an atheist, as he does not believe in a god - but he is much too young to have that definition thrust upon him. However, he is a child of atheist parents, and as atheists we are trying to raise him to be a rational, logical, decent human being.

Every child and adult in his school is protected by the constitution. A constitution that should protect him from a state sponsored religion. Coercing him into reciting something that states that this is a nation under God flagrantly violates those rights. By being neutral - by not stating the pledge, or by not having a prayer - or the prayer's legal substitute - the "Moment of Silence" - protects his rights and the rights of every person.

A public school's first priority should be education. Religion should be kept in your home, your churches, and your religious private schools and institutions. And, with the pledge, it's not just about religion, it's about nationalism and brainwashing children into accepting things that they do not understand. It is about conforming - pushing the belief that this nation is the "best" because it is protected by God. It leads to an unquestioning acceptance of the status quo - just look at the Jessica Ahlquist case, and look at how many people say that the prayer should stay "because it's been there for years". It is this mentality that NEEDS to change if this country has any chance in progressing and succeeding.


  1. While I agree with you about the pledge, I think you're a little off the mark with regard to the moment of silence. In fact, I think compromises like this are exactly what we should be aiming for.

    Government neutrality on religion doesn't mean they can't do anything at all related to religion. We can, and should, make whatever reasonable accommodations possible to support their first amendment rights too. The moment of silence is a pretty minor inconvenience for us non-believers, but they seem to find it important.

    The truly great thing about the moment of silence though is that it allows the state to recognize the existence of religious people without endorsing their beliefs. Religious people exist. They like to pray. We shouldn't have to pray with them, but we can politely accommodate their request for a short (planned) moment of silence whether their God exists or not.

  2. It could be changed to a Pledge of Allegiance to the US Constitution w/o any references to any deities. Why does there even have to be any pledge or moment of silence at all? The children don't actually care. Does it have to do with the Fed Dept of Ed funding? Children have no "religion" without parental indoctrination. Let them develop their own imaginations, as they do, then gradually out grow them. Problem is that most adults don't grow up keeping their imaginary friends till death.

  3. Phil - they are free to pray ANY time they want - in private and to themselves. Why must there be a public acknowledgement of any sort? Why must the children stand for it - I mean literally - why do they have to stand, on their feet - for the moment of silence? And yes, in reality, they have the right to sit it out, it truly is optional. But how many kids actually know this? How many are actually going to stand up to the principal telling them to stand up and do the Pledge and the moment of silence?

    I do have an update, however. I was wrong about my son. He DID sit it out. It was just that I couldn't see him from where I was. From where I was, all I saw were legs. He later told me that a classmate was pulling on his shirt, trying to get him to stand, and he still refused.

    I tell you, I am prouder of him for doing that than getting Student of the Month - of his class. In fact, knowing he sits through the Pledge every day and was STILL nominated by his teacher for that award makes me a very happy parent and American. It gives me hope.

  4. You made the statement that this nation needs to progress to have any chance to succeed. This nation has succeed for over 200 years now with the pledge being as it is but yet your opionion is that it needs changed. How do you think the pledge became as it is. Do you really believe that our founders Just happen to put in God we trust for no reason. How does a nation survive not believing in anything? Who decides what is right or what is wrong? Where did your morals come from? Sorry you feel that we need to evolve away from God to please your beleives. I completely understand that you are offended by the pledge but I think you should have the right to move to where ever fits your profile. But I don't think any other religious country wants that either.

  5. You might want to check your history - the founders did not even author the pledge - the original author was a socialist who purposely left "under god" out of the pledge.

    I'm not moving - this is a secular nation. The supreme court has held this up multiple times when religion tries to invade into the public/government sphere.