Reciting pledge in any language shows patriotism
Arizona Daily Star
April 9, 2008


Our view: Educators should teach Pledge of Allegiance in any, all languages

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

 The Tucson Unified School District deserves praise for defending a teacher's practice of letting students recite the Pledge of Allegiance first in English and then in other languages as a teaching tool.

We believe it's a wonderful idea. Students are very familiar with the words in the pledge, so teaching them how to say these words in other languages is an effective tool.

Unfortunately, the debate that has been raging the last couple of years over illegal immigration has created a sense of xenophobia and has given license to bigots to attack anything that deviates from what they've decided is "American" culture. In this climate, some people find the idea of reciting the pledge in Spanish appalling, even though it done as a supplement to the English recitation.

TUSD finds itself in the middle of a national furor over having the pledge recited in Spanish. A second-grade teacher at Gale Elementary School has for years had her students recite the pledge in English first, then in Spanish and American Sign Language.

This episode is another example of the irrationality displayed by some anti-immigrant activists and their intolerance of other cultures, specifically from Mexico, where Spanish is the primary language.

The Star reported that one father, who happens to be a member of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, found out two weeks ago that his son was reciting the pledge in Spanish and was outraged. The father tried to get the teacher and TUSD to stop the practice. When they refused, he took his case to the Internet, the Star reported.

From there, the story gained undeserved traction. TUSD has been barraged by angry e-mails decrying the practice. TUSD is right to stand by the teacher and the school. The district must stand firm.

We suggest other schools adopt the practice and expand it to include German, Polish, Arabic, Japanese, Hindi, Chinese, Swahili and others. Languages are an entry point into education about ourselves, about America a great nation of many people with roots in other places who came to this country because of its promise of freedom and prosperity.

The Pledge of Allegiance was penned in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a socialist minister, according to the Web site, which is operated by the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia.

In its original form, the pledge did not include a reference to the United States of America, as Bellamy "had hoped the pledge would be used by citizens in any country."

In 1923 the reference to the United States was added and in 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower asked Congress to add "under God."

Those who self-righteously object to the uttering of the Pledge of Allegiance in a language other than English miss the point: The students aren't pledging allegiance to another country, they're pledging allegiance "to the United States of America." Using words other than English is not un-American or unpatriotic. The U.S. Flag Code does not specify in which language the pledge should be recited.

The critics should heed the words of the pledge and remember that the United States is "one nation." The United States is a nation of immigrants and is stronger because of it.

The pledge also describes the country as "indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The simplicity of these words should remind us that the America described so eloquently by the Pledge of Allegiance has room enough for everyone.

The true meaning of the pledge cannot be diluted by being spoken in many languages but the pledge is dishonored by people who try to misuse its powerful words of inclusion and unity to promote bigotry.