An effort to celebrate national Foreign Language Week by reading the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic Wednesday has polarized Pine Bush High School into angry factions.The announcement was also greeted by this:
The morning's regularly scheduled announcements included the Arabic reading of the pledge. According to students, the announcement was greeted by catcalls and angry denunciations in classrooms throughout the school by students who felt the reading was inappropriate....
Um, kids? It's Foreign Language Week. That's a week when there's a special emphasis in schools on, um, foreign languages. Which are good to learn, as is recognized by just about every country on the planet except America.
But we've had this problem before -- ten years ago, in Millersville, Maryland:
Monday it was Spanish. Tuesday it was French. Yesterday it was Russian, and this morning it was Korean. At Old Mill High School, the morning Pledge of Allegiance was recited over the public address system in foreign languages each day this week. To Charles Linton, that's just plain un-American.Charles Linton also compared this to Satanism:
"I ain't gonna stand up and pledge my allegiance to the United States in any foreign language," said a furious Mr. Linton, who pulled his ninth-grade son, Patrick, out of class this morning. The practice celebrates National Foreign Language week, Old Mill Assistant Principal Mary Lappe said, and has been done at the school for years.
But Mr. Linton called it an unpatriotic display. He won't send Patrick back to school until Monday, unless the school restores the pledge to English. "We got people in a war right now," said Patrick, 15. "It's not right."
Charles Linton, Patrick’s father, said the use of other languages is disrespectful to the country. “It’s like wearing a cross upside down in a church,” he said.A couple of weeks later, there was a kerfuffle elsewhere in Maryland:
Noelle Tepper considers herself a patriot. So when her daughter came home from Windsor Knolls Middle School in Frederick County a few weeks ago complaining that the school was broadcasting the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish, she acted.In fact, it began as something very different:
She called the principal. She dispatched e-mails to the Board of Education, the district's interim superintendent and Michael L. Cady, vice president of the Board of County Commissioners. She called the practice "offensive and disrespectful to our country."
Tepper said she had no problem promoting cultural diversity, but she considered translating the pledge into another language going too far.
"This is a SACRED oath," Tepper wrote. "It is written in English. Our language is English. I am offended to hear it any other way. I am angry that my child is having to hear this in another language."
... as the pledge became a daily routine at schools and public meetings, its application a national loyalty oath has obscured its origins as a paean to international brotherhood, said Matthew W. Cloud, a Catholic University law student who wrote about the history of the pledge in the Journal of Church and State.But Americans have lost any sense of that history. Still, why is it so anti-American to have the pledge recited in a foreign language? As it is exists now, the pledge is an oath of loyalty to America. In any other language, it's ... still an oath of loyalty to America.
"It was kind of League of Nations stuff -- that we are all kind of brothers in this world," Cloud said. "So in that sense, it doesn't do injustice to the original pledge to recite it in a foreign tongue. But I can see how people can see it that way."
... The pledge's original author was Francis M. Bellamy, a former Baptist minister who considered himself a Christian socialist. He wrote it in 1892 as part of a nationwide campaign to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the New World. Initially, at just 23 words with no reference to God or the United States, the pledge spoke of "my flag." Children from all over the world attending the Chicago World's Fair the next year participated in a mass recitation, Cloud said.
"Some of them may have recited it in their own tongues, their native languages, I don't know," Cloud said in an interview. "But the theme of the pledge was republican ideas."
But Americans think foreign languages are simply hostile to America, just by dint of being foreign. The pledge gets translated into foreign languages as part of an effort to encourage American kids to learn other languages -- but I guess we just don't think they should learn other languages. Or maybe we don't think thy should learn much of anything.