Prague Twin

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Today at work we had a conversation about clocks. One of my employees wants to put clocks above the doors to the office, and I mentioned that we had the same when I was in school. In fact, I explained, the clocks were connected to a central system so that the moment they struck three, the bell would ring. The ladies in the office, chuckling, said, "we didn't have money for such a system." They went on to say, "but we did have a picture of our president in every classroom." Of course, we had no such thing, but we did have a flag in our room that we had to pledge allegiance to every morning. At that point, I described the drill, complete with the hand over the heart.

I pledge allegiance, to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the republic
for which it stands
one nation, under god
indivisible,
with liberty and justice
for all

They looked at me dumbfounded and asked, "that is in a democracy?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Wow, you guys are crazy."
"You never had to do anything like that?" I asked.
The answer came, "no, of course not."
"Do they still do that?" they asked.
"Honestly, I don't know," I answered.

It struck me as strange that in a country living under the dictatorial regime we knew as Russian communism, no cult of nationality was practiced such as the one I was forced to practice every school day for at least 12 years. While we talked about how brainwashed they all were, we engaged in a practice which now, looking back, seems to me absurd and nationalistic, by comparison they lived in relative freedom.

So I ask you, do kids still have to recite the pledge of allegiance?

If so, can you think of any other country that has a similar nationalistic practice in place?

I can't.

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27 Comments:

  • I was so excited to see the flag! I, too recited the plege every day in school, and I loved doing that. The eighth graders sang the Star Spangled Banner in the hall for the whole school every morning before the pledge. I loved that, too. We all looked forward to becoming 8th graders so that we could sing to the school.

    Today, it is Illinois law for all students to recite the pledge every morning, but last time I heard, local Wilmettte schools ignored that law.

    I wonder if your experience as contrasted with mine might be why you are in Prague and I'm in Wilmette? My neighborhood has many people born in other countries; they love to fly the flag, although the way they hang it sometimes looks a little odd. Nevertheless in a suburban area where there is profound ethnic, language and religious diversity, the flag unites us all.

    In some areas of America the flag is all we have in common. I believe it is a great reminder that we are, out of many, one. While you cannot think of another country that places such a premium on the pledge, can you think of a country other than the USA that so easily integrates the citizens of the globe so easily into its fabric of everday life?

    But more pressing. Can we spend Euros in Prague and do you have cash machines?

    By Blogger Publia, at 4:07 AM  

  • Yes, US schoolkids still take the pledge every day. It's supposed to be voluntary, but students have been known to be punished for not saying it.

    A good overview of some legal challenges to the pledge here. (http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/rel_liberty/publicschools/topic.aspx?topic=pledge_of_allegiance2)

    By Anonymous abi, at 5:05 AM  

  • Publia,

    Thanks for that. I never thought of it that way.

    I wonder if your experience as contrasted with mine might be why you are in Prague and I'm in Wilmette?

    I wouldn't doubt that it had something to do with it. I'm not a big fan of idols or shamans or heroes. Finding out how they lied to us growing up, and fed us propaganda, all the while saying the Russians were doing the same thing and that is why they are evil, well, that really bugged me.

    Blind allegiance is really not my strong suit, and there is precious little of that over here. The flag gets brought out when the Czech win a major sporting event, and on national holidays. That's enough for me.

    You can spend Euros in a few places here but generally no. Yes, we have cash machines. Planning a trip?

    Abi,

    Thanks for the link.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 11:56 PM  

  • I have a friend who traveled through much of the former eastern bloc and much of western europe years ago. he likes to mention how only the US has as many publicly displayed flags as the communist countries.

    By Blogger Graeme, at 10:30 AM  

  • praguetwin, you wrote:

    "I pledge allegiance, to the flag
    of the United States of America
    and to the republic
    for which it stands
    one nation, under god
    indivisible,
    with liberty and justice
    for all"

    There are few statements in this world that more noble than one in which speakers express support for the IDEALS that define the US.

    Yuo wrote:

    "It struck me as strange that in a country living under the dictatorial regime we knew as Russian communism, no cult of nationality was practiced such as the one I was forced to practice every school day for at least 12 years."

    School children were not sent to the gulag. That was for adults. Meanwhile, the KGB and others watched for signs of dissent.

    The press was tightly controlled, thus your friends really don't know how they or their parents were manipulated by government propaganda, which was produced in greater quantities than anything else in the Soviet Union.

    Meanwhile, I think you are simply kidding yourself about this matter. The Soviet hammer and sickle are recognized worldwide, today. In fact there is a store on 14th Street in Manhattan, NY that sells Soviet stuff, all for staqgeringly high prices. I thought it was a junk shop at first. Then I was told that an old Soviet military cap was $180.

    The May Day parades, the processions and banners and exultation of the worker sent a strong message to the people. Of course they ultimately rejected it.

    Meanwhile, maybe you should ask your friends about religion and the communist viewpoint on that part of life.

    The Soviet stance on religion should make it clear that certain thoughts and beliefs were anathema to the dictatorship. Thus, while your friends might have spent their school years freed from repeating slogans, they were not free to think as they pleased. Much of what they might have might have thought was a violation of state principles.

    You wrote:

    "While we talked about how brainwashed they all were, we engaged in a practice which now, looking back, seems to me absurd and nationalistic, by comparison they lived in relative freedom."

    You're way way way off. The Pledge is a pledge to support the highest ideals ever to guide a country.

    They are ideals, hence, we never quite get it right, but the ideals themselves are finest ideals any nation has ever hoped to reach.

    The correct question to ask is if anyone can identify a country with higher ideals. And I'll answer it. No. There are nocountries with higher ideals than the US.

    By Blogger no_slappz, at 7:53 PM  

  • graeme, you wrote:

    "I have a friend who traveled through much of the former eastern bloc and much of western europe years ago. he likes to mention how only the US has as many publicly displayed flags as the communist countries."

    What conclusion do you draw from this observation?

    Do you believe the abundance of flags suggests lots of people are employed at flag-making in both communist and capitalist economies?

    Do you conclude that displaying flags creates tyrranical governments?

    Or perhaps you believe there is an optimal number of flags for display. Some per-capita figure that would mark a nation as well-balanced in its devotion to flying its colors.

    As non-sequiturs go, suggesting flag displays are a measure of some national quality is a doozy.

    By Blogger no_slappz, at 8:05 PM  

  • As a reminder for those who have forgotten:

    'The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia'
    By ORLANDO FIGES
    Reviewed by JOSHUA RUBENSTEIN

    Ordinary Russians remember the gulag years.

    A link to the book review is available through the NY Times website.

    By Anonymous no_slappz, at 4:19 AM  

  • I've been sitting back just pondering your post and then following the comments. Having been raised in an era when we stood each morning and pledged our allegience, I had to think about the implications of your perceptions about this activity.
    If I just looked at this practice from the perspective of a forgeigner, I can see how this might be construed as indoctrination or brainwashing. But, that is not the America I grew up in. I pledged my allegience to protect my country's constitution and the ideals of a nation which in turn allowed me to question the practices of government, led to the development of civil rights and the FOI act. We engaged in peaceful civil disobedience and although things sometimes got ugly and people spent a night in jail, protesters did not routinely disappear into the night never to be heard from again. Even the MS civil rights workers were eventually discovered and their killers pursued.
    For me that is the difference; to be able to affirm my national identity while practicing my individual freedoms.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 6:39 PM  

  • Following the comments as well, Rocky, and looking back at the same time.

    I guess it comes down to this: you shouldn't be forced to pledge your allegiance to anything or anyone in a free society.

    I certainly never meant to imply that overall they were more free here: not by a long-shot. I just wanted to point out the irony that people raised under communism saw this as a strange thing to have to do in a free-society. They'd have expected it in their own, not in ours.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 10:53 PM  

  • I see your point, Mike. I'm sure that making it a requirement is what has caused it to be challenged by civil liberities lawyers on a regular basis. I believe now that it is optional in most school districts. I think the times we grew up in probably has a lot to do with the pledge. I'm on the back end of the baby boomers so our parents were all affected by WWII which spawned a lot of national loyalty and fear of infiltration by communists. It certainly didn't stop a whole generation from coming together to ask the tough questions and start a revolution of sorts.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 12:08 AM  

  • Check out the link that abi was so kind to source for us.

    Yes, it is the fact that although legal challenges are frequent, de facto, most kinds are compelled to recite a nationalistic pledge... in the land of the free.

    I'm not sure it is detrimental, just weird and ironic.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 1:42 AM  

  • Great link, abi. I never knew the exact origins of the pledge. It is disturbing that educators would continue to inflict their will on children and try to oppress their free thought development. Honestly, I never had issue with it when I was in school, but given how much things have changed, perhaps it's time to retire the pledge and dust it off for special occasions as a voluntary affirmation.
    Hey, Mike, aren't you up kind of late? Don't you have to work tomorrow? (Just askin')

    By Anonymous rockync, at 2:50 AM  

  • Sorry to hear the Pledge of Allegiance is still required in school. I've been out of school way too long to know. It's such a zany concept, "pledging allegiance." Allegiance is something a person feels inside; it's not strengthened or diminished by reciting a pledge every day.

    When I was a high school senior, there were two guys in my homeroom who would purposely be about two syllables behind everybody else during the pledge. Too funny. It would sound like "I pledge allegiance egiance, to the flag the flag..." The homeroom teacher would glare at them with smoke coming out of his ears, but what could he do?

    NOTE to conservative readers: The above comment is not intended to imply that I hate America or want the terrorists to win.

    By Anonymous Tom Harper, at 8:03 PM  

  • Tom, you're cracking me up! I went to school with a guy who, whenever the Star Spangled Banner was sung, he would deliberately sing out of synch and mangle as many words as possible (Jose can you see, the rockets were bare, etc). By the end of the song, half of us were doubled over and the teacher was purple! I don't think any of us thought much about the pledge or the anthem, but in retrospect, it does seem silly to require it. After a while it's just words. And I doubt it makes a bit of difference to one's level of patriotism.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 8:14 PM  

  • You know, keeping with that running thought, I never even knew what it was we were saying until I was older. For years I thought we were saying "for witches stand". I could never figure out what witches had to do with it. I didn't know what "pledge" or "allegiance" even meant.

    And yeah, I did go to work today. I was up late studying. 5 hours is plenty for me.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 10:09 PM  

  • I went to a very "alternative" elementary school and we still pledged allegiance to the flag, if I remember correctly. By middle school, though, that had ended, and I wasn't forced to take part in it during high school either. That being said, I mostly attended private schools and I imagine that it's much more common at public institutions.

    By Blogger Jeb Koogler, at 10:45 PM  

  • Forced? Wow.
    I think a little nationalism is a good thing. I also think the theory of "free range children" has also been pretty much debunked.

    By Blogger Your Jewish Master, at 3:03 AM  

  • To borrow from Jonathen Stewart, "No_Slappz is a dick."

    By Blogger Frederick, at 11:23 PM  

  • Jeb,

    Yeah, if I remember right by high school it was pretty much phased out. I don't even think we did it in junior high, but honestly I can't remember. I'll need to ask my friends kids (oh, god, I'm getting old).

    MJM,

    Welcome. I'm not sure I understand the comment. If you question whether or not we were forced, well, I know that I would be in a world of hurt if I refused. Only the Jehova's Witness believer was excused and we were very jealous. Children here in CZ are certainly "free range" and they seem to be very well adjusted. But again, I'm not sure what point you were trying to make.

    Fred,

    Yeah, well, I'm all about free speech anyway, even if it is on my blog. I think he is okay, he just doesn't understand the points I'm trying to make and tries to move into new areas. I'm not biting anymore.

    NS, in case you are reading this, I'm more than happy to engage you....on topic. As I've said before, if you want to talk about your topic, post something on your blog; I'd be more than happy to enter the fray.

    Thanks to all for your comments.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:49 AM  

  • I guess I would say that school is not a democracy. And that if it was, there would be no learning of subjects that the children weren't interested in.
    I think lessons civics, citizenship (including the pledge), whatever you want to call it would be good for the children of a nation, not a bad thing. Something to tie everyone together, though all may come from different religious/ethnic backrounds.

    By Blogger Your Jewish Master, at 1:00 AM  

  • mike, this is the third time I have come back to this post. I do not think I can add anything to this post to be constructive to your remarks. We definately do not think the same, as it relates to patriotism and thankful for God's blessings to me, my family and my nation......stay well.....

    By Blogger Tapline, at 1:58 AM  

  • YJM & Tapline,

    I've got nothing against patriotism, I just don't think it should be coerced. I find it ironic that the U.S. feels it is necessary to coerce a pledge from school kids. It something I would expect in a dictatorship, not in the U.S. Again, not necessarily bad, just ironic and weird.

    The ideals of the U.S. should be strong enough to stand on their own and not require such tactics.

    As to the point about religion, there are many religions that would prevent someone from giving such a pledge, and the one Jehova's Witness in my 4 grade class was singled out since his did not allow him to give the pledge.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:54 AM  

  • P.S.

    I'll get a new post up soon. MBA + full time job = very light blogging.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:55 AM  

  • Those witches are undoubtedly worrysome--I wouldn't want to pledge anything to them! I also understand why you are not too hot on the pledge, although I always thought about America, the ideal, and never the government.

    I did take a whirlwind trip through Prague last week. My kids were crazy about the town, and had a great meal in Gordon Ramsay's new restaurant, which I am glad to say they paid for themselves. They also are pretty sure that they saw a former high-profile Soviet official enjoying dinner there. Prague is a beautiful town. Think I'll explore it more fully when you're on the Euro, although if the dollar slips much more, I'll definately be stuck at home!

    By Blogger Publia, at 4:02 PM  

  • Nice! I haven't even been to that place yet.

    I can't figure out why you would wait until we go on the Euro to visit explore the country. You'll be waiting a long time (at least four years) in that case.

    Glad you got to see this beautiful city, and I'm even happier that you enjoyed it.

    Take care!

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 9:20 PM  

  • When you figure that I came for less than 2 jam-packed days, you would understand about the Euro--no time to get the local currency! I didn't realize that it would be 4years, though. I probably was thinking it would be good to add Prague to a return visit to Dresden and Leipzig which are pretty close and are great destinations at Christmas season.

    By Blogger Publia, at 8:34 PM  

  • Prague looks great and the best way to explore this city is to get lost in it.
    I spent one week there. Prague is amazing city. It is full of beautiful squares, beautiful architecture, and beautiful art. Also I really enjoyed my accommodation, because Prague hotels are not expensive and offers free transportation from airport.
    Just look around at the great monuments, the Prague Castle with the Golden Lane and the St Vitus Cathedral, the facades in different colors and styles along the Vltava, the 1001 peaks all around, the numerous cathedrals, basilicas, churches, synagogues, the national theater, the lovely little alleys and so much more.

    By Blogger Nick, at 1:24 PM  

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