Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

October 19, 2013

Another View: Reciting Pledge should lead to reflection

Michigan’s K-12 public schools are now required to set aside a portion of each school day for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s a state law. But is the law needed?

On one hand, it shouldn’t take a mandate to get it done. The pledge should be part of the school day at least through middle school when, hopefully, students have learned to say it by heart. It takes less than 30 seconds to recite the whole thing, and it’s an important component to civics education.

The pledge gives students a chance to reflect on their U.S. citizenship. Hopefully, that leads to some discussion about what it means to be an American and what values the country holds dear.

One of those values is honoring diversity and differences of opinion. The new law does give students an out - they aren’t compelled to say the pledge if they object. And it specifically says students can’t be the target of bullying if that’s their choice.

In the real world, however, the problem isn’t so easily addressed. Some teachers worry students will, in fact, become targets for criticism if they don’t pipe up during the pledge. It’s an unneeded stress at a time when schools are heavily focused on drumming bully behavior out of their districts.

If there is any good in the new mandate, it’s in the fact that it can open the doors to more discussion on the principles of American Democracy.

One of those principles is that we can respect those who don’t share our opinions, including those who support or challenge the pledge itself.

Saginaw Township Community Schools Superintendent Doug Trombley has an interesting take.

He says, “One of the things we try to do is give students a global perspective, when people exhibit choice and choose not to recite it, that might invoke discussion and understanding of different viewpoints.”

Amen, that’s when education takes place.

But did the Michigan Legislature need to get involved? On one hand, their action does further the discussion when it comes to the pledge and meeting requirements of state law. On the other hand, isn’t that really the job of our civics teachers and children’s parents?

The Bay City Times

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