WOODBURY — No one's sure when daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance fell by the wayside at Woodbury Elementary School.
But efforts to restore them have erupted into a bitter dispute in this tiny (pop. 810) Vermont town, with school officials blocking the exercise from classrooms amid concerns that it holds nonparticipating children up to scorn.
Supporters say the classroom is the place for it, and the disagreement has fueled an increasingly acrimonious debate.
The brouhaha in the Vermont school began in September, when parent Ted Tedesco began circulating petitions calling for its return as a daily practice in the 19th-century schoolhouse, which has 55 children in grades kindergarten through six.
School officials agreed to resume the pledge as a daily exercise, but not in the classroom.
"We don't want to isolate children every day in their own classroom, or make them feel they're different," said Principal Michaela Martin.
Instead, starting last week, a sixth grade student was assigned to go around to the four classrooms before classes started, gathering up anyone who wanted to say it and then walking them up creaky wooden steps to a second-floor gymnasium, where he led them in the pledge.
About half the students chose to participate, according to Martin.
Tedesco, 55, a retired U.S. Marine Corps major, and others who signed his petitions didn't like that solution, calling it disruptive to routine and inappropriate because it put young children in the position of having to decide between pre-class play time and leaving the classroom to say the Pledge.
"Saying the Pledge in the classroom is legal, convenient and traditional," said Tedesco. "Asking kindergarten through sixth graders who want to say the Pledge to leave their classrooms to do so is neither convenient nor traditional."
Martin and School Board Chair Retta Dunlap defended the practice, saying it restored the Pledge to the school as requested and preserved the rights of students who — for political or religious reasons — didn't want to participate.
On Friday, the routine changed again.
Just before 8 a.m., Martin herded all the school's students — and a handful of adults — into a cramped foyer that adjoins the first-floor classrooms and told sixth-grader Nathan Gilbert, 12, to lead them in the Pledge.
Most recited it; some didn't.
Afterward, 10 adults streamed down the steps and outside, forming a circle around Dunlap for a heated discussion in which they pressed for an explanation of why it couldn't be said in the classrooms.
The format is up to teachers, not administrators or parents, Dunlap said.
In an interview, Martin said the point of having the whole school gather for the Pledge was to protect children who don't participate in it.
"If you're in a classroom with 15 students and you choose not to say the Pledge, it's much more obvious than a group setting. When they're saying it in a group of 55, it's may not be so obvious. We don't want to isolate children," she said.
OK, so because a few kids who are too young to have any independent political opinions--we're talking K-6th grade here--might feel isolated or get picked on because they choose not to say the Pledge of Allegiance, now the whole school is out of whack in an effort to protect those kids from hurt feelings.
Frankly, it's because of stupid stuff like this why I no longer consider Vermont to be part of America or Vermonters to be my fellow citizens. It's not just this episode...that little state has a long track record of unpatriotic (liberal) BS, like public officials threatening to arrest our President.
But back to this topic...what's wrong with the school showing a little backbone and actually teaching the kids to be proud of America by telling them some of the many, many good things that America is about? I mean, that's why they're in school, isn't it? To learn? How does a kid that young even come up with enough anti-American sentiment to get to the point where they refuse to say our Pledge? Oh yeah...they get it from their parents--a bunch of ungrateful, unpatriotic blue-state losers who could only improve this country by packing all of their crap into their little European cars and moving to Canada.
But the school still needs to start teaching and leading, and Patriotism needs to be high on that list. If the current school officials aren't willing to try to make good citizens out of those kids the way that school officials used to, then they should be removed and replaced with real educators--optimistic, patriotic adults who actually love our country enough to be able to inspire others to love it via lessons that involve our history, our Constitution and how it came about, and the Americans whose creative ability brought new technology, wealth and freedom not just to this land but to much of the rest of the world.
And if some weird little kid still insists on not pledging allegiance to this country either because they're that desperate for attention or because their parents are die-hard America-haters who forbid it, well then those kids should simply be removed from the school so as not to contaminate the other kids and erode the positive environment that the teachers should be creating there.
When I went to school, every class room had an American flag in it, and every day began with a pledge. And by the time I got out of Elementary School, I already knew enough about this great country and my great forebears that I wouldn't have thought of not being proud to be an American. I wanted to be like those great people that I'd been taught about--the statesmen, the soldiers, the inventors, the explorers, the settlers, the astronauts...
Now we've got schools pumping out a bunch of semi-literate brats who hate our country and don't even know why. All they aspire to become now is rappers, Hollywood movie scum, or reality TV contestants. No wonder drug use juvenile crime and teen pregnancy is off the hook now. These kids have nothing in their future because our schools are so busy indoctrinating them to accept and embrace homosexuality and multiculturalism that they've stopped teaching basics like history, civics and citizenship.
The Vermonters need to get their heads out of their asses and start taking their schools back from Liberal feel-gooders like Micheala Martin. And Martin and her supporters in the school and on the school board need to be sent packing, preferably in search of new jobs that don't allow them any influence or authority over our nation's kids.
As for kids like Michela Martin champions, well when you bring kids up to become unpatriotic and useless, all you're really doing is creating a new generation of Democrat voters. They're perfectly suited for that and nothing else. And that's the most important argument for getting the teachers' unions out of our educational system and stopping their corrupting influence before we lose any more generations.