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LETTER: Consider the minority on pledge issue

To the Editor:

The South Dakota Senate's impending decision that would make recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance a mandatory part of the public school day compels me to share my views as a parent and educator.

Rote memorization and daily recital of the pledge do not effectively instill patriotism. Daily recitation makes the act perfunctory. The pledge should be saved for important life-benchmarks. Rarity begets value.

We must not forget there was a reason the pledge was removed from the school day. A recent survey of Sioux Falls parents cited approximately 70 percent approval for expanding the pledge to high schools. Some say let the majority rule. I ask that you consider the 30 percent who did not give their approval. Imagine your child were asked to say, "One nation under Allah," or "One nation under no God" daily. They could opt out, of course, but in doing so could become the target of ostracism and harassment.

This treatment would not result from your child's love of country, but because they believe differently than the majority. This consideration makes me uncomfortable as an educator and parent. Empathize with children who hold different religious beliefs than you. Public school policy decisions must respect the rights of all individuals.

U.S. civics/government and history are required courses in South Dakota. Civic principles are incorporated in these curricula. Add pledge-specific standards requiring our students to analyze, discuss and debate the historical context and the current viewpoints

regarding the pledge if we want them to understand it. Current efforts pushing the pledge into the school day would be better spent strengthening existing civic education standards.

The Pledge of Allegiance is important. If you feel children lack respect or civic virtue, look to yourself. Say the pledge at home. Volunteer to speak at a school about your service. Start a civics awareness campaign. Do what you please on your own time with your own children, but don't force the schools to coerce mine.

There are better ways to instill civic responsibility and patriotism in our youth. I encourage our state's legislators to remember that.