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No Daily Pledge for SF High Schoolers: Too Busy for Compelled Speech

The Sioux Falls School Board declined last night to require high school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day in class. The board's reasoning: the high schoolers are too busy!

“At the high school level, there isn’t always an opportunity to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day. They don’t have homeroom, but they do have assemblies, and the principals that were in the discussion with us, talked about the assemblies and how it’s a much more somber moment during their assemblies when every one is in the room,” board member Kate Parker said.

“It doesn’t reflect a lack of our appreciation or respect for all that our veterans do, it’s just the logistics of the high school day” [Beth Wischmeyer, "Board: Reciting Pledge Daily in High Schools Not Practical," that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.11.13].

Bonk! Wrong answer, Ms. Parker. If "not enough time in the school day" were the best reason for not requiring certain activities, we wouldn't have pep rallies, staff meetings on Common Core, or other time-wasting interruptions to the work of the classroom. Heck, we wouldn't even have lunch; we'd just deliver pizza or burgers and fries to the classroom and keep the kids working right over the noon hour, just like a lot of teachers do.

The right answer is that, especially among students approaching adulthood and voting age, the school board should not support compelled speech. The honorable veterans who made time to ask the board to impose this patriotic exercise said all they wanted was "ten seconds a day" to require their preferred form of speech. The brevity of the compelled speech is irrelevant; it's still compelled. It takes me less than a second to say "under God," but it offends my liberty and the First Amendment to require me or anyone else to declare my subjection to a divine entity of questionable existence and intent.

Besides, as we all know, the Pledge of Allegiance is really just socialist propaganda used to sell flags. You don't want your kids reciting socialism for just ten seconds a day, do you?

Alas, no one on the Sioux Falls School Board chose to have that fight last night. The school board also to amend their Pledge policy to reflect the current practice of requiring elementary and middle school students to recite the Pledge every day.


  1. Douglas Wiken 2013.11.14

    As a grade schooler forced to recite the pledge to the flag, I always thought it ridiculous to be pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth even if it was symbolic of something. It makes no more sense than primitives calling a pile of rocks or an albino wolf sanctified in some way or symbolic of something greater than geology or biology.

  2. Jessie 2013.11.14

    One of the few joys I take in public occasions on which the pledge is recited is to leave out "under God" and be out of sync with those around me. They don't have time while reciting their own words to figure out why it is that I seem to gotten to the end before they did.

    Small pleasures.

  3. Douglas Wiken 2013.11.14

    I suspect I was pledging allegiance before "under God" got into the pledge.

  4. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.14

    I'm with you Jessie!

    I remember reciting the pledge in grade school. I don't recall giving it much thought. It was just part of what we did every morning to begin our school day.

  5. Ashley Kenneth Allen 2013.11.14

    Words spoken are just that. Patriotism is not measured in words, but actions. I think he did a great job and I am not critiquing that. But if you think we need to say the pledge daily in High School to be patriots, I disagree. If we go that far... I say we sing the anthem everyday too. At work, in our homes, etc. Saying a prayer doesn't make you holy and reciting a pledge does not make you a patriot. We should be more concerned about the actions of our high school students than the words they recite. Just my opinion. Actions always speak louder than words. Encourage everyone to turn that pledge into actions and we will be a better society.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.14

    Clever, Jessie! I usually just pause; I might have to try plowing ahead!

    Ashley, you remind me that when I first started blogging in 2005, I was going to call my blog "Patriot Act."

  7. grudznick 2013.11.14

    As was I, Mr. Wiken. As was I. Then the pledge writers went all Howie on us.

  8. Paula 2013.11.14

    Ugh (eye rolling) here we go again. Good Lord (no pun intended) how are you people able to accept our country's money with "In God We Trust" written on it? Were most of you married in a church? If you've ever had to be in court even as a witness, did you ever have to swear to tell the truth by placing your hand on a bible?

    There's nothing wrong with having kids say the Pledge of Allegiance to start their day. If it's so vile to include the "under God" part just don't say those two words. If you're at a meeting or a gathering where someone starts out by saying a small prayer, just go with the flow and keep quiet and think about something else if you have to. Can't people just respect other people's customs/religions/etc and be respectful? Kids should be taught and reminded constantly about the veterans who fought and died for them to have freedoms. Saying the Pledge is a very small symbol of gratitude to show that.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.14

    I pledge allegiance not to pledge allegiance.

    The Pledge is a form of indoctrination.

  10. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.14

    Paula, you said, "Can't people just respect other people's customs/religions/etc and be respectful?"

    Exactly. Why can't Christians, or any other religion respect other people's customs/atheism/etc., and say the prayers they feel they need to say silently without requiring everyone present to be a part of it?

    On the other hand, how about if those not interested in any "pledging" continue with their conversations or whatever they may have been doing while you do your pledging?

    If you don't respect their customs/beliefs/etc., why should they respect yours?

  11. Paula 2013.11.14

    Because if the majority of people are bowing their heads and listening and pretending to pray....why in the world would you be so rude to blab on with your conversation?

    And yes, I have notice a lot of people who refuse to silence themselves, remove their hats, place their hand over their heart while at sporting events when the National Anthem is played. It makes me very sad for those people who show such disrespect for our country, our veterans , and the people in the crowd around them.

    You do have a right to believe and act as you want I do....but everyone can be respectful. If I were at a dinner and someone chose to say a Muslim prayer thanking Allah for the food, I would go along with it. Even though I'm not Muslim, why would I kick up a fit and rudely cause disruption?

  12. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.14

    So then its majority rule when it comes to whose beliefs are respected?

    If I'm wrong about the majority thing, which your reference to a Muslim prayer might indicate, then you'd have no objections to following the American pledge with an anti-pledge? Or an American Indian prayer? Or a Muslim prayer? Or how about repeating the American pledge but saying, "Under Allah", or "Under Grandmother Earth", or leaving the "Under" part entirely out? Out of respect, of course.

  13. Paula 2013.11.14

    Well, I think you have to take your surroundings into consideration, Deb. I mean, if for some reason some said a prayer at a dinner thanking Allah for our food, in my mind and heart I don't have a problem going along with that kind of prayer. If I found myself some place where someone was worshiping Satan, for an extreme example...I would in no way pray along with that and would probably say my own prayer to my God instead.

    If I were living in Iraq and heard a Pledge of some sort, I would just not say the "Under Allah" part. In fact, I maybe wouldn't say any of it, but I sure and hell wouldn't throw a big stick about it because I was after all in Iraq following their customs.

    This does bring up the subject of a few months ago with the Chamberlain High School not including the Honor Song (or Dance) the Native Americans wanted to include in the graduation ceremony. I think it was COMPLETELY WRONG that the school board voted against including it since there was a majority of students who were Native American (if I remember correctly) If my kids attended that school, I would be honored to have them included in this type of ceremony, and they are white. We are Christian, but if an American Indian prayer or Grandmother Earth wants to bless my children, I am open to it.

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.14

    I appreciate your efforts to be reasonable and thoughtful.

    If nonbelievers are in a minority in their class at school, will they never get to say the pledge according to their beliefs? Is that what you're saying Paula?

    While you are trying to be reasonable, I can't imagine a city council meeting in SD that would welcome a Muslim prayer in addition to the Christian prayer to begin the meeting. Can you?

    Overall, I don't see the harm in an atheist statement to follow the pledge in any US school. Where is the harm if joining in the statement is not compelled? Respectful silence would be a big and welcome step.

  15. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.14

    The Minneapolis city council now includes an East African man, a Latina woman, and a Vietnamese man. So in addition to the Christians, there is a Muslim, the Latina is likely to be Roman Catholic, and the Vietnamese who might well be Buddhist or another Asian religion. I don't know for sure what the Latina and Vietnamese believe. It was never an issue in the campaign. Questions were about their plans for the city, their political records, etc.

    I expect that city council meetings will go on as usual with no changes. Council prayers were dropped some years ago out of respect for the variety of members and constituents. There is a time of silence to be used as one sees fit. It's lovely, peaceful, and very effective.

  16. Bree S. 2013.11.14

    There aren't any references to God that I am aware of in the Constitution, however we declared our independence in the sight of Nature's God, claiming the unalienable rights bestowed upon us by our Creator, and so the phrase "one nation under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance is entirely appropriate. I see no reason not to err on the side of tradition in this matter as anyone who wants to exercise their right to freedom of speech and not say "under God" can choose to do so without negative consequence. Also, removing "under God" would trample on the rights of citizens who desire to acknowledge our Declaration of Independence occurred "under God" and would in fact be a tyranny of the minority imposed upon the majority.

  17. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.14

    Or vice versa Bree

  18. Bree S. 2013.11.14

    The 1.5% of the population that is Atheist is not going to be thrown in jail for not saying "under God." No one is forced to say the phrase.

  19. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.15

    Cory, did you remove some comments, or am I losing even more of my mind? Removal is okay by me, and understandable. Didn't contribute to the topic at hand. You can delete this one too. No problem.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.15

    Sorry, Deb, and other commenters! I had a blog wreck this morning; restored database, didn't get all comments. Nothing personal, just operator error as I'm trying to switch back to a faster host. Anyone having other tech issues today?

  21. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.15

    I'm not getting email notifications, no big problem, I don't mind logging in each time. Just to let you know.

  22. Jana 2013.11.15

    I wonder if any of the people of the School Board had done their research on the Pledge?

    Did you know the author was a socialist who was trying to sell magazines?

    Anyone care to look up the Bellamy salute?

    Heck, this might be a good class research project.

  23. Douglas Wiken 2013.11.15

    Sorry about the near duplicate posts. I'm not quite sure what happened. Yesterday, I was getting errors from the host site for Madville suggesting filing a "trouble ticket".

  24. Paula 2013.11.15

    Thanks for the info Douglas... so nice to know there are things in place to appease those who have a problem with swearing on the Bible in court.

    I wish someone would address my question about athiests getting married in church. I'll bet an awful lot of them still get married there and that's pretty hypocritical.

  25. Donald Pay 2013.11.15

    The reason the pledge is not recited much beyond elementary level is that older kids look at this stuff as a way to screw off. By about age 12 they've heard all the ways to futz with the words: "to the flag" becomes "to the fag", "under God" becomes "Underdog" and "For which it stands" becomes "For Richard Stands." Snickers ensue. It not that they're unpatriotic. They just have outgrown elementary school rituals and have graduated into adolescent smartaleckyness.

  26. grudznick 2013.11.15

    The Methodist Church is big on the Pledge.

  27. Jenny 2013.11.16

    What makes you believe atheists are getting married in churches, Paula? There are a lot of people that are just indifferent to religion such as myself. Agnostics and atheists are growing in numbers, and I'm sure there are more than just 1% in the world.

  28. Jenny 2013.11.16

    The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Christian socialist - who would have thought! Does the far right know this?

  29. Paula 2013.11.16

    Because I am just wondering about people who are so vocal about their "rights" being violated anytime God or religion is all those people get married outside of a church setting? I highly doubt it. I'm sure some find an alternative setting, but I think a lot of them don't. Doesn't it offend them to be married in a church, or by some kind of religious pastor?

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.16

    Paula, I got married in a church. Erin and I very carefully chose the words the pastor would say in the vows so that when I said, "I do," I would mean every word I said. I wasn't offended at all, because I chose to say the things I said. I chose to enter the building and chose to enter 11.5 years and counting of marital bliss. (First Lutheran in Brookings also has great acoustics for the bagpipes.)

    Requiring my child to pledge allegiance and assert the existence of a divine being as a condition of public education is an entirely different matter.

  31. Donald Pay 2013.11.16

    The pledge has everything the right hates in it. "One nation" and "indivisible" is in direct opposition to states' rights and 10th Amendment fetishism. "With liberty and justice for all" attacks the race and class based elitism that the right continues to uphold. Even "under God" is really not something the right would be happy with, because Jews and Arabs and a whole host of other folks worship deities that aren't the same as the Christian right's idea of "God." And as far as I'm concerned the Christian right's idea of God is something that needs to die.

    Kids recite this thing because adults tell them to. They don't have any idea what it means. I'm convinced that the people who push the reciting of the pledge also have no idea what it means. It's really the stupid leading the ignorant on this one.

  32. Paula 2013.11.16

    Well, I suppose I lean towards the right, but your description doesn't fit what I think at all,Donald. But I'm not going be called stupid and/or ignorant, just because we disagree, so I'm outta here.

    Cory, nobody forces kids to say the pledge or say the "under God" part. Parents who don't want their kids taking part in the pledge should teach their kids to respectfully refrain, and it's a moot point.

  33. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.16

    There are so many available marriage venues. In addition to a county office, there are countless outdoor settings, plus a large and growing number of wedding "chapels" that are not religious in nature.

    Some churches, I don't know how many, allow outsiders to use their building for a fee. Nonbelievers use them for nonreligious weddings because some churches are beautiful settings.

    It would be interesting to have factual information on the percentage of weddings that are officiated by clergy and happen in churches. Nationwide the percentage is probably significantly higher than you think Paula. In a state like Washington, where I did a one year internship, I'd guess the majority of marriages are made outside of churches. Washington is one of the least religious states.

  34. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.16

    Thanks for the followup Cory. You are highly skilled at managing this site.

  35. Paula 2013.11.16

    Ok, I will bite one last my opinion, it is terrible to use a church for a wedding, just because it's a beautiful setting. I thought getting married in church was to have your marriage blessed by a pastor/priest/minister, and to commit to your spouse in God's house. That is my believe, probably mine alone.

    I also believe anyone who is so against just having their kids respectfully decline saying the pledge or stating "under God" put their agenda so that NOBODY gets to say the pledge, because they don't want their kids singled out for not saying it. Too bad; instead, that is the time to have a discussion with your children why you believe what YOU believe and maybe by junior high and high school they have their OWN opinion. Maybe they would WANT to say the pledge because they believe in it.

  36. Jenny 2013.11.16

    As a parent, I personally think this pledge debate is done to death and it just takes away from the real problems we need to be taking on.

  37. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.16

    I'm glad you did "bite", and hope you continue to do so. You bring an important voice to these discussions.

    I completely agree that using a church with no regard for faith and purpose is bad behavior. In my internship in Washington I pastored a beautiful little church in the Cascade Mountains. (It was sooo gorgeous out there!) I got calls about using the building for nonreligious purposes. The only one we allowed was AA. (Some will argue about whether AA is religious.)

    I got a call once from a woman who wanted me to officiate her wedding in our building. She had no connection but she was familiar with the setting. She wanted to know, "Does it have to be religious?" She was serious. I said yes it did have to be religious. She decided to look elsewhere.

    I hear what you're saying in your last paragraph. In addition to nonbelievers talking with their children, how about believers talking with their children about why it is so crucial in the framework of what makes America great, that everyone gets to act according to their beliefs, except when such behavior violates law. The believer children should also know that it is a cherished American tradition that dissenters be treated with respect and honored for having the courage to lawfully and peacefully dissent.

    Would you be willing to support that kind of remedy? Of course the school needs to be a vocal supporter of the right to disagree without repercussions. It would be necessary for the adults to model that for the children.

    What do you think?

  38. Bree S. 2013.11.16

    You sure do have a lot of wonderfully philosophical thoughts in the process of not responding to direct requests for explanation of your previous statements, Deb.

    For example, why you think the Atheistic indoctrination of public school children, by forcing them to listen to an atheistic statement after the Pledge, is not a serious unConstitutional violation of parental rights. Explain why you think it is morally appropriate for the Government to allow the Atheistic indoctrination of the children of God-believing parents while those children are attending school.

  39. interested party 2013.11.16

    bree: why would you capitalize atheism?

  40. Bree S. 2013.11.16

    It's a religion, right? Thought I was required to be politically correct to the point of group-think.

Comments are closed.