Earlier this week the school board of Sioux Falls, SD decided that it would not make the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance a daily requirement in high schools. This was not a new policy; students in Sioux Falls high schools have not been saying the pledges daily for some time. However, a group of veterans asked the board to reconsider that policy. James Boorman, one of the veterans who spoke to the board regarding their request, summarized what they wanted this way: “This is what we are asking, ten seconds a day from standup until sit down. Ten seconds to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day.” In case you’re wondering that’s a literal ten seconds, too, not hyperbole. Go ahead and try it–watch the second hand on your clock or watch and recite the pledge. At a normal cadence it will not take you ten seconds.
Addressing the reasons why the school board voted–unanimously– not to make the Pledge a high school requirement school board member Kate Parker said, “We felt that we wanted to make that clear that at the high school level, we don’t [recite the Pledge]. There’s not always an opportunity to have the Pledge of Allegiance spoken every day.” Really? There is not an opportunity to find ten seconds that students could recite the pledge? That seems awfully far-fetched to me, and it did with the veterans making the request, too. Said Dave Saunders, “Tonight we had a wounded veteran, it took him longer to get out and get up and get his crutches, then it would have taken the students to say the pledge of allegiance to the flag.”
Another school board member, Doug Morrison, said, “Just the challenge of being able to find a period within a high school day to be able to say it consistently appeared to be a challenge.” Among all of the things that high schools have a literal challenge figuring out how to do, scheduling ten seconds to recite the pledge should not be one of them. Apparently high school students in Sioux Falls do not have home rooms, and the fact that they do not means it would just be too hard to make room for the pledge. That’s absurd. At the school where I serve the high school students do not have home rooms, either. That was a problem that was solved in about–oh–ten seconds. What do we do? The students recite the pledge at the beginning of the first class they have each day. (In fact, our students recite the pledges to the Christian flag and the Bible, too. Somehow we manage to survive despite the thirty seconds that takes every day).
The Argus Leader, the local Sioux Falls newspaper, reported the board’s decision this way: “Board members said the flurry of activity that occurs first thing in the morning at the high schools isn’t conducive to giving the Pledge the reverence it deserves.” In my mind, though, that’s pretty flimsy. Regardless of whatever activities occur at the beginning of any school day there has to come a time when students focus and get down to learning. If there are other things that need to be done before reciting the pledge–announcements or attendance or whatever else–go ahead and do those things first. But to say that there is not time, or that it is not possible to create the reverence the Pledge deserves, is disingenuous and silly. The simple fact is the school board does not want to require it and there is no other logical explanation for it.
Interestingly enough Sioux Falls requires that elementary students recite the pledge every day and in the same meeting that they decided high school students would not they expanded the elementary policy to include middle school students. The message they are sending, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is that the schools have time to encourage younger students to pay respect to their country and the men and women who serve, and have served, to protect it, but at the high school level that commitment of time is no longer convenient. Here’s the thing, though–when it comes to honoring the country and the men and women of the Armed Forces convenience should have nothing to do with it. It should be a priority.
Said James Boorman in the Argus Leader story: “Such reflections help us appreciate not only the veterans, but the freedoms we enjoy as a consequence of their service, taking time to reflect on how we are doing with our use of freedom, helps us to appreciate all the more where it comes from, and the heavy price that is paid to defend and sustain it. … Ten seconds to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day, throughout all of your grade levels. This is not too much to pay, considering the sacrifice that others are standing in harm’s way for you.”
School board member Kate Parker said the board’s decision is not meant to show any disrespect. “It doesn’t reflect a lack of our appreciation or respect for all that our veterans do, it’s just the logistics of the high school day.”
All due respect to Ms. Parker, I think it takes incredible chutzpah to say with a straight face that when weighing the possibility of reciting the pledge each day or not–dedicating just ten seconds to honor the country, the freedoms we have and the men and women who protect those freedoms–deciding not to do so is just “the logistics of the high school day.”
That’s nothing short of incredible in my mind…and I do not mean incredible in a good way, either.