Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fifth Grader Refuses to Say Pledge Of Allegiance - Wait Until You See Why

I admit, when I first saw the headline about the child refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance, I just assumed it was about the whole "under God" thing in there. Well you know what they say when one "assumes," and nowhere was that more the case than here, as this article makes clear, A Boy And His Flag: Why Will won’t pledge.

This boy, though only 10, is well, amazing. He outshines millions of adults in this country, that's for sure. The article makes that point clear:
Will Phillips isn't like other boys his age.

For one thing, he's smart. Scary smart. A student in the West Fork School District in Washington County, he skipped a grade this year, going directly from the third to the fifth. When his family goes for a drive, discussions are much more apt to be about Teddy Roosevelt and terraforming Mars than they are about Spongebob Squarepants and what's playing on Radio Disney.

It was during one of those drives that the discussion turned to the pledge of allegiance and what it means. Laura Phillips is Will's mother. “Yes, my son is 10,” she said. “But he's probably more aware of the meaning of the pledge than a lot of adults. He's not just doing it rote recitation. We raised him to be aware of what's right, what's wrong, and what's fair.”

Will's family has a number of gay friends. In recent years, Laura Phillips said, they've been trying to be a straight ally to the gay community, going to the pride parades and standing up for the rights of their gay and lesbian neighbors. They've been especially dismayed by the effort to take away the rights of homosexuals – the right to marry, and the right to adopt. Given that, Will immediately saw a problem with the pledge of allegiance.

“I've always tried to analyze things because I want to be lawyer,” Will said. “I really don't feel that there's currently liberty and justice for all.”

Out of the mouths of babes - or a child, in this case. Preach it, Will.

I love how deliberate this child is in his considerations. Again, would that many adults were capable of such rational thought:
After asking his parents whether it was against the law not to stand for the pledge, Will decided to do something. On Monday, Oct. 5, when the other kids in his class stood up to recite the pledge of allegiance, he remained sitting down. The class had a substitute teacher that week, a retired educator from the district, who knew Will's mother and grandmother. Though the substitute tried to make him stand up, he respectfully refused. He did it again the next day, and the next day. Each day, the substitute got a little more cross with him. On Thursday, it finally came to a head. The teacher, Will said, told him that she knew his mother and grandmother, and they would want him to stand and say the pledge.

“She got a lot more angry and raised her voice and brought my mom and my grandma up,” Will said. “I was fuming and was too furious to really pay attention to what she was saying. After a few minutes, I said, ‘With all due respect, ma'am, you can go jump off a bridge.' ”

Ahahahahahahaha. I love that, "with all due respect..." It seems he had been showing her more respect than she was showing him. This was the quintessential "teachable moment," and this teacher wildly missed the mark.

Well, you know what happened next, as will happen when a child backtalks a teacher (at least in Arkansas):
Will was sent to the office, where he was given an assignment to look up information about the flag and what it represents. Meanwhile, the principal called his mother.

“She said we have to talk about Will, because he told a sub to jump off a bridge,” Laura Phillips said. “My first response was: Why? He's not just going to say this because he doesn't want to do his math work.”

Eventually, Phillips said, the principal told her that the altercation was over Will's refusal to stand for the pledge of allegiance, and admitted that it was Will's right not to stand. Given that, Laura Phillips asked the principal when they could expect an apology from the teacher. “She said, ‘Well I don't think that's necessary at this point,' ” Phillips said.

And why not? In this case, this teacher was wrong, as the principal acknowledged. The issue was one of justice and liberty, again, a great teaching moment for these children. The discussion could have been quite enlightening, but no:
After Phillips put a post on the instant-blogging site about the incident, several of her friends got angry and alerted the news media. Meanwhile, Will Phillips still refuses to stand during the pledge of allegiance. Though many of his friends at school have told him they support his decision, those who don't have been unkind, and louder.

“They [the kids who don't support him] are much more crazy, and out of control and vocal about it than supporters are.”

Given that his protest is over the rights of gays and lesbians, the taunts have taken a predictable bent. “In the lunchroom and in the hallway, they've been making comments and doing pranks, and calling me gay,” he said. “It's always the same people, walking up and calling me a gaywad.”

Unfortunately, we we could see that coming, especially from Fifth graders, and other school age children who routinely say, "Oh, that's so gay." What am I talking, some teachers do it, too (unfortunately). Still, this young man has some backbone:
Even so, Will said that he can't foresee anything in the near future that will make him stand for the pledge. To help him deal with the peer pressure, his parents have printed off posts in his support on blogs and websites. “We've told him that people here might not support you, but we've shown him there are people all over that support you,” Phillips said. “It's really frustrating to him that people are being so immature.”

At the end of our interview, I ask young Will a question that might be a civics test nightmare for your average 10-year-old. Will's answer, though, is good enough — simple enough, true enough — to give me a little rush of goose pimples. What does being an American mean?

“Freedom of speech,” Will says, without even stopping to think. “The freedom to disagree. That's what I think pretty much being an American represents.”

Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson smiles.

Okay who wants Will to run for president in 25 years??? Yeah, me too.

No doubt Thomas Jefferson IS smiling at this wonderful young boy, and I am thankful for parents like the Phillips. We could sure use more like them. We DEFINITELY could use more young people like Will. What a thoughtful, grounded, boy he is. I hope for his sake, for our sake, he will be able to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance before he goes off to college...


Anonymous said...

What a great young man! If I'm still alive when he runs for President, he's got my vote. Since he's 10 now, and 35 is the minimum age, we've got 25 years to go.

Here's a link to the CNN interview with Will and his dad (I know, it links to HuffPost, blech!) -

How is it that a young man of 10 can see so clearly what our supposedly brilliant Idiot In Chief and his minions cannot?

Now THIS is a teachable moment. What an opportunity to teach all those kids who are giving Will a bad time - and their parents as well - about liberty and justice for all.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

I know, right? I surely hope you ARE alive in 25 yrs, SFIndie!! (And I fixed the typo, btw - oops.)

Indeed it is a teachable moment. Think the "Idiot in Chief" will get a clue? Yeah, no, me neither...

He's really something, isn't he, this Will? Thanks for the link!

Mary Ellen said...

I can tell you this, Amy, that kid is more mature than most adults I know.

The whole name-calling thing just burns me up because this is a time when the school and its teachers could make this a "teachable" moment by suspending or punishing the kids who are calling him a "gaywad". That is harassment and needs to be addressed.

My granddaughter is just turning 10 this week and she told me the other day that a bunch of kids in the classroom have been calling her a bitch. It all started with one girl in her class who has obvious social problems which the school is barely addressing. This girl made up a song and dance calling my granddaughter a bitch and her friends have all chimed in doing it, too. But, so they don't get into trouble where the teacher can hear them, they stand in front of her making the dance motions and humming the song. My daughter has gone to the teacher more than once and talked to the social worker...and they refuse to address it. They say she should just ignore them and they will stop.

This is the life of a 10 year old in school now. And here comes this kid who has the intelligence to stand up for his own convictions and he is being harassed and that harassment is allowed to go on in school. What does that teach this kid? It teaches him that intelligent thought is not permitted in school. Pretty sad.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Mary Ellen,

I am so sorry your granddaughter is being treated like that - by the TEACHER and SOCIAL WORKER. That is infuriating! The little girl who started it needs a serious talking-to, that's for sure, but for the teacher to let it go is unconscionable. No doubt, she's worried the girl's parents will yell at her...Sheesh.

Don't they have a zero tolerance on bullies at her school? Or for that matter, at Will's? Both are most definitely "teachable moments," and the teachers are failing badly by not utilizing them. They are allowing these kids to get away with something now that can be even worse when they get older.

What is WRONG with them??

Again, I am really sorry your granddaughter is being treated like that.

And yes, this young man is really something, isn't he?? His parents must be fantastic people rearing such a thoughtful, insightful, compassionate, strong boy - at TEN!!! No kidding he is more mature than most adults I know...