- (Photo: REUTERS/Scott Audette)
In another chapter of the debate over how Americans should treat the flag in the public sphere, a U.S. Air Force veteran is upset that her daughter's public school is forcing students to recite the pledge of allegiance each day, an act some view as an integral component of being American.
After spending four years in the Air Force, Haley Sides wanted her daughter to get an international, multicultural education. And with an educational community that encouraged multiculturalism with immersion programs in both Spanish and Japanese, John Stanford International School seemed like the perfect fit.
However, when the school's new principal announced that students would have to recite the pledge of allegiance each day, Sides was as disappointed as she was angry, the Seattle Times reported.
"It pains me to think that at a school that emphasizes thinking globally we would institute something that makes our children think that this country alone is where their allegiance lies," Sides said.
The Seattle Times reported that Seattle public schools are required by law to have students recite the pledge of allegiance, but at John Stanford, teachers were allowed to make their own decisions about implementing the rule. However, the new principal, Jesely Alvarez, said rules are meant to be followed.
"As adults in this school community, I believe it is important that we follow rules," Alvarez wrote in a letter to parents.
Although Sides believes reciting the pledge of allegiance takes away from the global-thinking philosophy of the school, Executive Director of Schools Marni Campbell disagreed.
"In a community where you're talking about global citizenship, it's also important to talk about American citizenship and what that means," Campbell said.
The debate within the school mirrored the national debate, with different views on what the American flag represents.
Janet Robinson, the local PTSA treasurer, argued that reciting the pledge reminded people about America's image of freedom and liberty.
"It's a symbol of our country," said Robinson, who the Seattle Times noted was not speaking on behalf of the PTSA.
Jessica Rose, a fifth-grader at the school, had a different viewpoint. "I don't think we should be making kids stand up and pledge to any one thing. It just totally goes against what this community is about," she said.
However, in every micro-debate that is part of a larger, macro-debate, there is a particular story that makes it different. In this case, it is Sides, whose partner was a Jamaican-born Navy serviceman who died a mere seven months after obtaining U.S. citizenship. His daughter was only 1 ½ at the time.
Since then, the Seattle Times reported, Sides has tried to teach her daughter that rather than thinking of the world as a place with borders and flags that separate, she should think of the world as an "integrated community."
Despite Sides' reasons for wanting to leave the pledge to a flag outside of a child's classroom, the single mom and U.S. Veteran has been criticized.
Conservative blog, The Stir casts judgment on how Sides should mourn and honor her late partner: "She is using the memory of a man who fought to become a citizen of our country to dishonor said country? Shame on her."
Commenters on The Blaze were more critical, going so far as to call Sides a "traitor."
"Was this Air Force Veteran upset when he/she took an oath to protect this Nation?" the angry Blaze commenter said. "I would consider this person a traitor and bring charges against them or at least cancel any benefits they are receiving. Who is this person pledging allegiance to now? Commies, Marxist, socialist or Islamic jihadist? It's quite clear that it's not the USA. What secrets did this traitor give up to our enemies?"
Among parents in the school community, however, Sides is not alone in believing that the school's pledge requirement should not be questioned.
"What if the law's a bad law?" asked George Ptasinski, a father of a first-grader at the school. " 'Separate but equal' was the law of the land for a while. Was it right to enforce?"