Friday, November 13, 2009

No Pledge of Allegiance

...until there actually is liberty and justice for all. That's what ten-year-old Will Phillips says, and he's acting on it, declining to stand for the Pledge at school because his family has gay friends who aren't being treated equally under the law -- who are being deprived of the right to marry, or to adopt children.

Predictably, Will is being harassed for his stance, first by a substitute teacher and (of course) by some of the more nasty and ignorant students at his school. (Although to be fair, this is only elementary school and I'd bet cookies that the students who are taunting and harassing him are just reflecting the views and behavior of their parents, so the shame is on them for not setting a better example.)

Will's parents support him, though, and got the school administration to admit that he's not required to stand for the Pledge, that he does have the right to sit through it.

And what about the substitute teacher who tried to bully him into participating, even threatening to get his mother and grandmother (whom she knew, although obviously not very well) on his case? Since he hadn't broken any rules in refusing to stand for the Pledge, Will's mother asked when they could expect an apology from that teacher. Well, the principal didn't see that as "necessary." Of course not. [eyeroll]

Will has an excellent sense of right and wrong, though, and I applaud his stand, and also his parents for supporting him in doing what's right. Read more about Will and the Pledge incident in this Arkansas Times article, and more commentary by John Brummett, a columnist with the Arkansas News. If nothing else, Mr. Brummett's suggested alternate Pledge is entertaining, and unfortunately apt.

Thanks to Indigene on The Phade for the original link.



Charles Gramlich said...

Naturally some kids would bully him. Anything different stands out. I have to shake my head at the teacher being involved. Sounds like a petty beurocrat mind. Hard to know if the teacher's irritation went deeper than that, but perhaps.

Angie said...

Charles -- I wonder how much of the other kids' bullying is because that teacher didn't stomp on it right away? The article doesn't say, but if she was trying to get him to conform, I'm wondering whether she might've turned a blind eye to some of the peer harassment, figuring it might help Will do the "right" thing? :/ But yes, you'd think a teacher would know the actual laws and rules and behave accordingly.


writtenwyrdd said...

What a cool kid! It takes a special sort of guts to go against the tide like that, especially in a little grade schooler!

Angie said...

WW -- seriously! [nod] This is one awesome kid.


laughingwolf said...

could it be the 'teacher' and 'principal' are still in the closet, and must put on a show? :(

go, will! :D

Angie said...

LW -- no clue, honestly. I suppose it's possible. I suspect it's more likely the "zero tolerance" philosophy and its don't-think buck-passing which sucks the brains out of otherwise intelligent people. The thing about zero tolerance policies is that they're absolute. Nobody has to think, no one has to exercise any judgement, no one has to consider what's reasonable. If X action, then Y punishment, period. That kind of absolutist thinking tends to seep into adjacent grey cells, you know? :/

More and more American schools are being administered on the basis of zero tolerance policies, and that philosophy has no place for individual choices or circumstances. It's about maintaining absolute order no matter what, at any cost. The issue with the Pledge isn't a zero tolerance policy itself, but that's the kind of thinking -- or rather non-thinking -- being shown here.

Couple an absolutist atmosphere of rules enforcement with the hyper-patriotism still displayed by far too many people, based upon outward display rather than true thought or feeling or meaningful action, and, well, smacking down a kid who won't pledge allegiance to the flag, even though he's not technically required to, seems like a logical outcome. Not reasonable, but not unexpected, given the environment.

That's my theory, anyway.