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Writing is a skill developed only with effort and long application. Speech is something that any first-grader can do. So it is not surprising that those who have achieved some mastery of writing should be vain of the accomplishment, even to the point of exaggerating its importance.

Thus we begin to explain something about the clamoring tribe of peevers. What is implicit in their cant about the purity and precision of language is a set of assumptions: that writing is of primary importance and speech secondary, that written language should be the template for spoken language, and that their particular dialect—in this country, standard written American English; in Britain, standard written British English—calls the tune for everything and everyone else.



Yeesh, if you guys ever wondered why atheists rank so low on electability, that commentary telling you to demand the pledge not be recited at school is a perfect example.

  1. You can't recite the pledge because somebody in the room might not be a citizen? Ridiculous! They're a guest in our country. Is it too much to ask that they respect our customs?

  2. Reciting the pledge at school violates free speech? It's a school! Constitutional rights are set aside when you enter.

  3. Saying it every day means we don't trust them to remember their pledge from yesterday? How the heck are we to expect children to memorize something that long without reciting it daily?

  4. It contains the words 'under God' means it's a prayer? Hardly. Besides, God can mean anything you want. Carbon? Sure! Evolution? Sure! Humanity? You betcha! Gaia? Of Course! Whether you want to admit it or not, everyone has their own gods.

  5. Reciting the pledge was an attempt at putting forced prayer in schools. See 4. and maybe it's the other way around. Reciting the pledge might have been a way of assuring Christians, Jews and Muslims that reciting the pledge was not a violation of the First Commandment. The US is a place where you may pledge allegiance to your god(s) and the nation concurrently.

  6. Don't recite the pledge because schools don't have enough money. That's got to be the most petty of them all. Our allegiance is for sale? Really? Is that something we want our children taught at school?

  1. You can respect your host country's customs without participating in them. If I visit, say, Saudi Arabia, I will respect their daily prayer rituals, but I won't participate in them and I doubt if they would expect me to.

  2. Constitutional rights are not completely set aside when you enter a school. There is a principle known as In loco parentis, which means the school acts as a parent while the kid is there. Certain constitutional rights like freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom from search & seizure are partially suspended. However, the right to abstain from reciting the pledge has been repeatedly upheld by the courts. See Board v. Barnette. The Supreme Court has also ruled in favor of certain types of protest speech, such as wearing black arm bands to protest war. (Tinker v. Des Moines)

  3. Forced repetition is indoctrination, not education.

  4. The phrase "under God" in a mandatory recital constitutes state advocacy of religion. This has been repeatedly upheld by the courts. See above.

  5. As you may know, the phrase "under God" was not in the original pledge. It was indeed added for the purpose of religious indoctrination. It wasn't added until 1954 after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization.

  6. At a time when most school districts are strapped for cash, if a few bucks can be saved by eliminating this insulting anachronism, I'm all for removing it.

  1. But you wouldn't insist the Saudis stop their rituals because of your presence. That's what is being demanded here.

  2. I'm going to admit some ignorance here, but I always assumed students had the right to stand silently during the pledge. I don't remember anyone doing it until I was in college (actually, he would turn his back to the flag), but at least from my experience, I don't remember anyone being punished for not reciting the pledge.

  3. I strongly resisted the demands my chemistry teacher (periodic table) and English teacher (MacBeth) demands that I memorize certain fundamentals, but it turned out to greatly benefit me later. I believe the pledge reminds us to be team players - it benefits us all.

  4. Again, we all have gods whether we want to admit it or not. There is room for both monotheists and pagans in this country - that's part of what is so special about us!

  5. Yes, and this was to differentiate us from the Soviets who demanded you worship the State. We have the freedom to worship god(s) in this country without being traitors to our country.

  6. We're talking about 30 seconds. Are you really that petty?

  1. Memorizing the Periodic Table is only beneficial if you absorb the information contained within. Simply memorizing it without applying what it contains is pointless. This is also true for Macbeth, perhaps even more so. At this very moment, you are surrounded by people who have been forced to memorize or at least read great works of literature but who haven't absorbed or put to use any of the lessons contained therein. And I daresay those who refuse to recite the Pledge are closer to absorbing this nation's founding tenets than those who mindlessly repeat it.

  2. This is a stupid argument so I won't bother with it.

  3. You seem to be confusing the freedom to do something with being forced to do something. Schoolchildren who are forced to acknowledge a god they might not even believe in isn't freedom of religion.

  4. 30 seconds? I can see you've never been in charge of a classroom full of kids.

This is strange. I numbered my responses 3 through 6 because those were the points of Syngas that I was trying to respond to, but the page renumbered my points for me. Weird.

"...And I daresay those who refuse to recite the Pledge are closer to absorbing this nation's founding tenets than those who mindlessly repeat it."

You may be right about that! Isn't it fantastic that they have a daily opportunity to express their superior comprehension of American values?

The guy that always turned his back to the flag I mentioned before was one of the smartest people I've ever known, but he was also habitually late. Inevitably, he would come rushing out of the locker room for the pledge so he could turn his back instead of staying in the locker room and finishing getting ready for the swim meet. As much as he hated the pledge, he wouldn't miss it for the world! He'd catch some flack for it now and then, but he relished the opportunity to tell anyone who would listen why he does it.

yeah, many of the arguements suck

I stopped saying the pledge at about the 5th grade here is why.

  1. It a terrible attempt at propaganda

  2. It makes children that don't believe in god say there is a god with all their friends there watching

  3. It makes people who get no justice, and have had little liberty say that there is liberty and justice for all.

  4. We are constantly divide.

  5. I could write a better one, and no one asked me.

As a "guest", I say don't stop doing it on account of me, but also as a "guest", I just find the pledge just kinda creepy.

So the claims that it is forced are more BS. I figured as much, but hadn't seen it first hand. Thanks.

Please write a better one.

Funny, how I don't remember the time I volunteered to do the pledge every morning. I sorta just remember the teacher going to the front of the room and saying repeat after me. and then sending anyone that didn't play a long straight to the principle for punishment.

That is funny. Probably a lie, but funny none the less.

This is my favorite version by Matt Groening.

I plead alignment to the flakes of the untitled snakes of a merry cow. And to the Republicans, for which they scam, one nacho, underpants, with licorice and jugs of wine for owls.

Apparently he also wrote a less funny but more accurate one:

It would be interesting to see how many kids would be reprimanded by the teacher or sent to the principal's office for loudly saying that at 'pledge time'. Why none, of course! ('Cause kids aren't 'forced' to say the pledge and their free speech rights aren't restricted.)

A kid was suspended for this much more innocent, and much more kind-hearted than the actual one:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Federation of Planets, and to the galaxy for which it stands, one universe, under everybody, with liberty and justice for all species.

I would hope all of them. Disrupting class is not a constitutional right in school. I spent many hours sitting at my desk while my classmates enjoyed recess because of my mouth (big surprise huh?) driving home that point. As an educator yourself, I'm surprised you'd support a student's right to disrupt class, but then Texas does rank near the bottom in education so maybe I shouldn't be.


Yeah, I saw that one also, and you're right that it's not as funny, but yes, more acerbic.

As concerns you finding the pledge kinda creepy, I've heard that same notion from many Europeans, Canadians, South Americans and others.

Apparently the U.S. and the Philippines are the only two countries who pledge allegiance to a flag (which of course represents the country).

Anyway, from what I've read, people from other countries find it strange that Americans display their flags all over the place and seem to almost worship their flag.

I'm not too fond of flags in general, which of course doesn't mean I don't like some places better than others. It does kinda bother me a little when other immigrants pretend their country of birth is all that much better than the one they're living in (presumably by choice).

Interesting. I used to work with a colleague (a fellow accountant) whose family was from Mexico and it bothered him to see Mexican immigrants/students displaying a Mexican flag on the antenna of their vehicles.

In my own country, on Independence Day and days surrounding, people have to put out their flags on their homes by law, or you get fined. When I found out about this as a kid, I was outraged! (Translation is good enough.) Apparently at least some younger people agree with me as well (I think that paper is read more by young people).

I think I've told this story before, but when I was working at a hotel, there was an old man who worked there and had to put up the US and CA flags every morning. He was old and an ex-boxer, could barely walk fast enough. We got a complaint about him from someone who wasn't even a hotel guest or had anything to do with us, just walking on the street, cause he put down the US flag on the floor while he was raising the other one. It was just amazing to me, and I wonder what goes through the mind of this person who goes out of their way in the early morning to mess with an old guy. For what?

They mess around with the old guy simply because they're obsessed with symbols.. sigh.

So was your Peruvian Lady Godiva ever arrested?

Lady Godiva? Refresh my memory, if I have said something about that before?

You never said anything about it before, but it has to do with the Peruvian flag. Does this ring a bell?

He did a series in his book, School is Hell. Part of the Life is Hell Strip.

That is what I did!!!!! :)

Re: speed of languages.

Interesting. I wonder though about whether these different languages value or don't value use of a caesura (meaningful pause between words). I was listening to some comedian a while back. She was asked about humor, and said so much of it depends on the timing. Certainly Bob Hope depended a lot on the pregnant pause, as, for that matter, does Jon Stewart. Maybe whether or not a caesura may be used to accentuate meaning depends on how polite the listeners are. I note for instance, that I purposefully (poetically) pause between words more often when talking to youngest daughter, than I do with husband, who tends to use a pause, even one for a quick breath, as opportunity to interrupt. Though, in truth, perhaps the husband's tendency to interrupt is caused not by rudeness, but by his more frequent exposure to 'the pause' that means absolutely nothing more than that I once again, can't find the word I'm looking for.

Re Fracking. "One of my spies forwards an article in which a member of a public relations firm looking at attitudes about hydraulic fracturing of shale to produce natural gas observes, “Fracking has become almost a dirty word.” "

Yup. After years and years of Battlestar Gallactica in multiple reruns on every cable channel, these PR boys had best seek out another line of work, for they will NEVER be able to recapture that word and paint it clean. Definitely guys. Get that resume out, cuz if these Frackers wants ya to make them look good, yer fracked. Write if you get work.

The (English) comedian Eddie Izzard has some interesting things to say about doing standup in France (in French). Apparently there is no tradition of standup comedy at all in French, so what he's doing is kind of bizarre. I wonder if there's some relation between the speed of a language and its use of pauses, and its propensity for comedy. My guess, though, would be its mostly a cultural thing. People interrupting during one's dramatic pauses truly is one of the most frustrating things ever.

How about this or this... ..okay so the second link for Pierre Desproges does not lead one to understand that this was a stand up comedic act.. and yet it was.

Anyway, two examples of French stand up comedians.

re: Pledge of Allegiance

Generations of recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in school doesn't seem to have helped a whole lot. They say it in Texas,and wasn't that the Governor who was talkin' secession a while back? Yea, I'm sure it was. You know, the guy who just said with a grin, 'I guarantee that when I'm President, the Federal government will have little or no role in your life!' (er something to that effect). Oh wait! That was before he just requested a Federal Disaster declaration for all those fires around Austin.

I was bemused by Michelle Bachmann's comments about the Earthquakes and Floods during Hurricane Irene. She was saying "God is asking what does it take before you see some sense down there in Washington." I was thinking the same thing - 'cept God wasn't talking about deficits to me, She was talking about helping our fellow citizens, demonstrating compassion for victims, rebuilding our infrastructure and schools and putting people back to work. Oh yea, She also mentioned bringing our military home from abroad and guaranteeing our Vets a couple of years of work to get back on their feet, and I'm pretty sure she said something about labeling GMO.

If you have to compel patriotism, if children are trained to recite the pledge by rote, it is basically worthless insofar as promoting patriotism is concerned. It is a baby step along the same path I remember a Czech friend of mine describing back in 1980: He, and everyone else, had an assigned place to go when the communist party had one of its farcical parades. Attendance was mandatory, but of course fealty to the state didn't come so easily.


I have no idea who that is, haven't been in the loop with pop culture over there for years.

But hey, Peruvians too have their Jersey Shores-types and whatnot! But we also have an astronaut and a Literature Nobel!

(BTW-that's a US citizen right there, and he dances better than me.)

oops, he's South African, my bad.

You have the wrong link if you were meaning to direct readers to the 78 word short story competition at Esquire.

My take on Hemingway's too-famous story: For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.

Say No to Drugs

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn. Why’re we selling the shoes you may be asking? The baby’s dead, that’s why. Are you happy now, you intrusive, heartless pricks? Your next question—if I know your type, and I think I do—is to ask how the baby died. Ever heard of crystal meth? Not exactly anyone’s idea of pre-natal care but the old lady is totally hooked on the stuff. Me too.

Want the damn shoes or not?


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