Sunday, October 14, 2018

School board president skips Pledge of Allegiance

The Friendly Atheist

From the SF Chronicle last week:

For the first time in memory, the San Francisco school board bypassed the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of its meeting Tuesday night, a purposeful omission by the board’s new president.

Stevon Cook, presiding over his first meeting, said he had been mulling over the idea of replacing the recitation of the pledge after he was elected to lead the board following the departure of former President Hydra Mendoza two weeks ago.

He told only a few board members prior to Tuesday’s meeting, and instead of asking people to stand and recite the pledge, he read a quote from poet Maya Angelou: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”

If anyone in the audience or on the board noticed, they didn’t say anything.

Colin Kaepernick will be honored by his old Turlock high school. The football player will be inducted into the Pitman High School Hall of Fame on Nov. 3.

“There are a lot of ways to express gratitude and appreciation for the country and its citizens,” Cook said Wednesday morning. “This is how I plan to do that.”

State education code requires schools to conduct a daily patriotic exercise — although no one is required to participate, and many schools skip it because it is rarely if ever enforced — but that law doesn’t extend to public meetings, district officials said...

In San Francisco, the Pledge of Allegiance has for decades been the first order of business at school board meetings after roll call, although it hasn’t officially appeared on the agenda...

Cook was among those who declined to say the words.

“We should stand for (the pledge) because those ideals are important to me,” he said. “To speak them is another thing.”

He said the national political climate is disappointing and the current presidential administration “has been attacking our liberties.”

In addition, he said he believes the historical context for the pledge has been lost on most people.

“If you ask 10 Americans who wrote it, or when it was implemented, or why it is how we start our meetings, a lot of us would be hard pressed (to answer),” he said.

He did that research.

It was written by a socialist minister, Francis Bellamy, in 1892, and amended a few times. In 1954, President Eisenhower, in response to the rise of communism, asked Congress to include the words, “under God.”

...Cook said he plans to select quotes or the writings of a range of inspirational Americans, including writer Toni Morrison, gay rights icon Harvey Milk and novelist James Baldwin.

“I'm not doing it as a way to seek attention,” he said. “I really think that these people are a great testament to our values and who we should aspire to be as Americans.”

Replacing the pledge wasn’t an act of protest, Cook added, but rather an acknowledgment that the words of great Americans can equally express U.S. values, like inclusion and social justice...

Rob's comment:
One of the annoying things about the pledge is the "under God" addition in 1954, another example of how, as Christopher Hitchens put it, religion poisons everything

Why any supposedly "inspirational" words from anyone need to be recited before a public meeting is unexplained. Better to just get on with it without any political/religious rhetoric, aka bullshit.

Besides, even good writers can do and say stupid things. Maya Angelou, for example, supported cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, which I don't find particularly inspirational.

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