Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Applauding the Kids

I told the story yesterday of one of the other sciencebloggers whose son was forced to say the pledge of allegiance by a teacher in North Carolina. I also told of how he and his parents went to the principal and the principal was very sympathetic and said she would talk to the teacher and make sure she understood that no student could be compelled to recite the pledge. So here’s the rest of the story and I think it’s an incredible ending. On day 2, the teacher told the class that they do not have to recite the pledge and that if they don’t want to, they can simply walk out of the class while the others say it. All but one of the class walked out, led by his son. And these are 8th graders. Those kids are heroes as far as I’m concerned. They taught the government a lesson in liberty.


  1. #1 Caledonian
    September 13, 2006

    Request for clarification: did she say that they had a right to walk out of the classroom, or that they had to walk out of the classroom if they didn’t wish to participate?

  2. #2 Mike Horn
    September 13, 2006

    Excellent. I agree that these 8th graders should be applauded. Maybe the teacher learned a lesson from the students that day?

  3. #3 boltgirl
    September 13, 2006

    Well, good for the kid, but I question the teacher’s decision to let the non-pledging kids walk out of the classroom. What 8th grader won’t take advantage of the opportunity to escape and eat up classroom time, regardless of political leanings (or lack thereof)? It strikes me as the same kind of cognition-free herd behavior as saying the pledge in the first place, albeit in the opposite direction.

  4. #4 Julia
    September 13, 2006

    Maybe in all fairness we should note that telling a class of eighth-graders that they have the option of leaving the room rather than do almost anything else is likely to result in a mass exodus.

  5. #5 keith green
    September 13, 2006

    I agree with boltgirl’s comments.

    In general, I don’t think kids should have “freedom” in classrooms, except as in this case, the freedom of conscience, FOC.

    We can force kids to study evolution, for example, even if it violates their FOC. They don’t have to believe, they just have to understand it and answer questions as if they believed it. The requirements of an educated / indoctrinated public and the fact that evolution is true and vital science is assumed to be more important than the rights of individual conscience.

  6. #6 kehrsam
    September 13, 2006

    As I tried to point out yestersay, this is nothing new and no big deal, other than a few teachers or administrators might have believed that saying the Pledge was mandatory; it is not. It is mandatory that there be a time set aside for the Pledge, but no one is reqired to pay attention, much less participate. It is entirely equivalent to mandating that a flag be present in the room.

    Boltgirl and Julia: The morning show is during Homeroom, when most schools allow free access to lockers (located just outside the room). The teacher spends Hoomroom standing in the doorway so as to see both the kids in the room and the hall. So this is no big deal, either.

  7. #7 Ken
    September 13, 2006

    Good for those kids!

    One thing still bothers me, though. The teacher told them that if they did not want to recite the pledge, they had to leave the room? That’s just as unconstitutional as forcing them to say it.

  8. #8 Matthew Young
    September 13, 2006

    Pardon my ignorance, but what is the specific problem with pledge?

    Is it the religious content, the nationalistic content, or the obligation to actually recite it? Or is there more to it than this?

  9. #9 Herb
    September 13, 2006

    Only one kid stayed? That’s pretty brave. I hope s/he doesn’t get her/his ass kicked on the playground for being teacher’s pet.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    September 13, 2006

    I don’t think the fact that the kids were asked to leave rather than just sit at their desks matters much to the story. The teacher didn’t say that the kids could leave and not come back, she said they could go into the hallway for 30 seconds and then come back in. And sitting at one’s desk while the rest of the class stood up to recite the pledge would have the same ostracizing effect on a kid. The point of the story is that it wasn’t just one kid refusing to recite the pledge, it was virtually the entire class. And that deserves our applause.

  11. #11 Ken
    September 13, 2006


    The problem is the forced recitation. Justice Jackson really put it best:

    “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    September 13, 2006

    I think there are many problems with it. I would be opposed to the forced recitation of any sort of pledge like this for kids, but it’s particularly bad when you’re forcing them to recite religious statements.

  13. #13 Matthew Young
    September 13, 2006

    Cheers Ken, gotcha. I just don’t actually know the content – will look it up now.

    I also wish to applaud the actions of the kid who stayed. Herd behviour is pretty ingrained in humans, and to stand up against the entire class like that took some guts. Not that I agree with his/her stance, just the courage to make it.

  14. #14 frank
    September 13, 2006

    Interesting that the students have FoC in this case, but not regarding commercial speech, i.e., Channel One, which requires that students be forced to listen to its commercials by contract.

  15. #15 lettuce
    September 13, 2006

    I’m going to disagree with Ed:

    I’ve been through this Pledge recitation with my son in boht elementary school and later in middle school (he’s just turned thirteen and is now in High School)…

    It matters a great deal if the child is required to leave a public school classrom if he or she refuses to say the Pledge.

    This gives the choise manner of the child being singled out to the person singling out the child. The manner ought to be the one preferable to the child.

    From elementary school on my son chose to sit quietly while others recited, he felt his constant presence would be a better reminder to those around him of the choices they were all making.

    I don’t know that it mattered or made a difference, and I might have chosen differently (I attended parochial schools until the middle of my High School years) but it was his choice and I supported it.

    Little enough to give to these people making difficult choices that others are thrusting on them.

  16. #16 Lettuce
    September 13, 2006

    Franks writes:

    Interesting that the students have FoC in this case, but not regarding commercial speech, i.e., Channel One, which requires that students be forced to listen to its commercials by contract.

    If the schools district required the children to pledge allegiance to Channel One or their advertisers, I suspect you’d have a problem.

  17. #17 kehrsam
    September 13, 2006

    frank: The reality is not so bad there, either. No one is forced to watch the Channel One (which is, by the way, incredibly lame and occasionaly just incorrect) and far fewer kids pay attention to that than the locally-produced morning show.

    As for the issue of making the kids go into the hall, I assume this is to allow those who wish to recite the Pledge to do so without the others talking, moving about, etc. Since kids freely go in and out during HR anyway, going in the hall is not a mark of non-conformity (although it was for the kids in question here — good for them!).

    Overall, an admirable civics lesson for all involved.

  18. #18 Stogoe
    September 13, 2006

    We should stop bothering with any such pledge and relegate it to the the ages as a curiosity of the authoritarian 50s.

  19. #19 Markus
    September 13, 2006

    I applaud the kids. And I do wonder if the non-participation requires leaving the room. Sounds like an unjust burden merely for non-participation.

  20. #20 James
    September 13, 2006

    Hmm. No one seems to have noticed that this was probably an indication of the amount of respect that these particular kids had for this particular teacher.

    Still, “Way to go!” is the appropriate response, although I’m having some trouble getting a read on the lone remainder. Teacher’s pet? Contrarian? Spy for the majority? Double agent? Whatever. Watch him carefully; he’s not like the rest of us.

  21. #21 Greg Horn
    September 13, 2006

    In the 10th grade I got sick of saying the pledge and refused to do it, which pissed my 1st period teacher off to no end. He didn’t insist that I say it, but insisted that I stand for it. I did that for a few days and then just showed up late to class by a couple of minutes. Of course, then I had minor penalties for showing up late (cleaning the classroom for every three days I was late). The same teacher was my first period teacher for the rest of high school, and I was late every day after that.

    So I commend the kids who walked out, and the one who stayed for following his own convictions.

    If the Mike Horn who posted above is who I think it is, he’ll know who the teacher was, and if it is that Mike Horn what are you doing commenting on blogs? Shouldn’t you be in class or a library or something?

  22. #22 Mike Horn
    September 14, 2006


    You must be looking for another Mike Horn. I’m a 33 year old Web Designer in NE Florida.

    Then again, there are several Mike Horns out there. The most famous one I know is here: MikeHorn.com

    I felt very small after seeing what THAT Mike Horn has done.

  23. #23 Greg Horn
    September 15, 2006

    Thanks Mike Horn! My line of thinking was this blogger is from Michigan and my younger brother is in grad school in Michigan, hence there is a possibility this Mike Horn could be my brother, obviously slacking off at school.
    It’s always good to find another friendly Mike Horn.
    I’ll send my brother the link.

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