April 13, 2007

Rights? Right? Rite?

My oldest is a freshman. He has a pal, we'll call him Jeremy, who's an excellent student. He tries to be all that he can be in academics, sports, extracurricular activities. This past winter Jeremy learned in his honors history class that it is unconstitutional to force someone to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Being the conscientious kid that he is, he took this information to confer with another history teacher in the school and that teacher told him it was true, that it is well within his rights to sit if he wants to sit...according to the constitution. Well, Jeremy doesn't like his homeroom teacher much and was probably feeling a mite bored with life, what with winter and all, and Jeremy, for whatever reason, decided he wasn't going to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance every day. And he commenced in not doing so.

The homeroom teacher told him to get up. He didn't. Next day she told him to stand out in the hall if he didn't want to stand in allegiance. He wouldn't. Next day she told him he'd have to sit in the back of the class while everyone else stood. He remained in his front row seat.

The next day he stayed seated again. He looked at his teacher. She smiled down at him and looked dutifully toward her country's flag. He wondered if he'd succeeded in his venture, but couldn't quite account for the smile. After homeroom he was called down to the office and there stood his mother. Her father was a colonel in the Airforce. She dressed Jeremy down there in front of everyone. She threatened that he'd lose a boyscout trip if he didn't comply. She asked him if he's anti-American. Jeremy's actions were not going over well with her and she was freaking...all over Jeremy...in the front office of his school.

Jeremy is standing for the Pledge of Allegiance now. I don't know if he understands what happened or why. I appreciate this adolescent life experience of Jeremy's and imagine he came out of it learning something. But I feel for him. He has teachers who give him bits of information and sit back and watch him dive headlong into trouble knowing full well he can't see the whole picture...he has a school that resists the very rights it teaches (and I use that term so loosely that it's untied and dragging on the floor)...and every day walking the halls of that school, he passes bulletin boards showing off proud pictures of school-sanctioned trips to Washington D.C. where students participated in rallies, demonstrations, and protests for gay rights and other political issues.

I haven't heard much about the whole ordeal since then. I'm sure things went back to usual. I can't help but imagine a different outcome though. Jeremy keeps sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance. A couple other kids decide to join him. Kids question why they get to sit and others don't. The teachers decide to use the experience as a teaching opportunity and reintroduce the kids to the meaning behind the routine they've been mindlessly executing every morning for 10 years. The kids learn a little somethin'....

Oh, who has time for such things.
Just stand up or we're going to tell your mom.

2 comments:

MarlaQuack said...

"Oh, who has time for such things.
Just stand up or we're going to tell your mom."

How sad! It seems like the kid was looking for someone to tell him why it's right to do ceritan things. Instead he just got embarrased in front of people he has to see every day.

~marla

Diane said...

Good for Jeremy for being willing to take a stand. Folks tend to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as some sort 1776 Revolutionary War patriotic oath - it was just something someone came up as part of the Chicago World's Fair.