June 12, 2010

The Pledge of Allegiance ... in Spanish?

I really don't see the big deal about this:

A school principal in Wrightsville, Wisconsin, has defended on constitutional grounds the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish at the school. Responding to a letter of protest from the mother of a kindergarten student, Principal Lee Mierow of Wrightsville Elementary School said he wanted to ensure that Spanish-speaking students understood the importance of the Pledge. But he also seemed to suggest students have a constitutionally guaranteed right to recite the pledge in the language of their choice while participating in the ritual at school.

Well, considering that students have the constitutional right to not even say the Pledge (West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 1943), I'd surmise it's a fairly safe assumption that they have the right to say it in Spanish if they so choose.

I also think the principal's point is spot-on: Wouldn't we want students to know the importance of the Pledge above all other considerations? If students are [very] new immigrants to our country, learning English will take some time. Instilling the values of the Pledge in a kid's native tongue -- while they're learning English -- seems pretty darn reasonable to me.

The protesting mom who brought this to the media's attention is missing the point in several respects:

"Not only does reciting this in Spanish insult our family as American citizens, it is disrespectful to the veterans who have defended our country," she wrote. "English is the primary language in this country. The Pledge of Allegiance was written in English and should be recited in English. No similar accommodations were made for other immigrant patterns in history nor should they be as long as the American flag is flying."

How does it insult your family, really, ma'am? Don't we want newly arrived peoples to understand and accept our cultural, political, and legal values? How much you wanna bet that in the past, immigrants who recited the Pledge in their native lingo had no idea what the hell they were saying? Sorry, but our veterans fought for American values, not the English language. But the mom is right, at least, in one respect: English is the US's primary language -- it is not the official language, thus meaning legal barriers to mandates regarding it are few. So, this is another factor in the principal's favor.

As long as students are learning English -- in the quickest and most reliable way possible -- I see no reason why they cannot [initially] learn our Pledge in their native tongue. Again, America is about a shared culture, and legal and political philosophy -- an idea and ideal -- much moreso than a common lingo. Should we make sure that we have a common language? Of course. But not at the expense of the former.

Posted by Hube at June 12, 2010 10:41 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I agree completely, Hube -- though I do find it interesting that the Pledge is said in English at my 90% Hispanic school in Texas but not at a school in Wisconsin.

By the way -- consider this one for the Council this week.

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at June 13, 2010 07:38 PM

I like this perspective.

Posted by: trn at June 20, 2010 03:49 PM