As Pledge Returns to PS 29, Parents Hope For a Teachable Moment

Recitation is mandated by the state

Students at in Cobble Hill now begin each morning with the Pledge of Allegiance, a ritual that's been absent from the school for more than ten years.

While it was parents that first complained to Principal Melanie Raneri Woods about the missing patriotic ode, other parents are hoping the school uses this opportunity to teach the history of the pledge as well as cultural sensitivity to the diverse student body.

At a PTA meeting last month, Woods first discussed the issue with parents.

"We haven't done it, but it is a requirement," Woods said to the more than 30 parents in the auditorium at the school. "If a parent wants it, I have no choice, we have to do it, it's fine, the kids will get the whole picture."

"The question is not if, but how?" she added.

Indeed, New York State law mandates schools to recite the pledge, though students are not required to participate. In the weeks following the September 11th attacks, the New York City Board of Education passed a resolution to reinforce the state law. According to an article in the Daily News, PS 29 was out of compliance at that time, too.

Some parents, unhappy with the mandated recitation, hope the elementary school will lead discussions around the origins of the pledge and how it has evolved since Frances Bellamy penned it in 1892.

Pietro Costa, parent of a PS 29 fifth grader, attended the PTA meeting and was unhappy to learn that the pledge had been reinstated.

He believes the school should have had an open discussion with parents and students, rather than immediately agreeing to comply with the  state law and the Department of Education resolution.

"The DOE resolution was passed in 2001 under emotional circumstances," he said.

He also expressed concern over students bullying peers who choose not to recite the pledge.

"It’s ironic because the school was just dealing with issues of bullying and how to deal with peer pressure," he noted. "Here you have the perfect example of bullying."

Denver Buston, a local business owner (with Costa), writer and parent of a PS 29 first grader, is also concerned.

Buston explains that his daughter "enjoys" reciting the pledge, but that, as a first-grader, "she doesn’t really know what the words mean."

Like Costa, Buston hopes the school uses this issue as a learning opportunity. He is particularly troubled by the phrase "under God,” which was added to the pledge in 1954.

While kindergartners and first graders are likely "too young to understand the concept of separation of church and state," Buston hopes that PS 29 teaches older students about this issue.

Principal Woods did not return calls for comment, but at the PTA meeting last month, Woods expressed her desire to seize the teachable moment.

"We have such a diverse population at PS 29," she said. "We will not do it [the pledge] without the context of an intellectual conversation with the children."


Georgia Kral contributed reporting

Lisamarie Librera March 29, 2011 at 12:57 PM
I am the PTA President in a Middle School in Park Slope, we say the Pledge every morning, we have a very very diverse school. Some children don't say the Pledge because of their Religious beliefs and that's fine, but they do stand out of respect.
Anthony March 29, 2011 at 01:08 PM
I would like to hear more about why P.S. 29 did away with the Pledge 10 years ago. At least stand out of respect is the sensible thing to do.
Tamar Smith March 29, 2011 at 02:31 PM
I'd like to clarify that "parents" (which makes it sound like a group of families) didn't complain but that one family did, saying, at least according to the Daily News, that they were shocked to discover that their third grader didn't know the Pledge and was not reciting it every morning. Also, in answer to the commenter from above, I don't believe that PS 29 did away with the Pledge in the sense that people are insinuating. I grew up in NYC and remember a time when students stood for a daily recitation in my elementary school in the mid 70s, and then a few years later when it was no longer done - though it was recited at assemblies and occasions like that. For various reasons, from religious objections to political ones, people all across the country and for decades have challenged requirements to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Many people believe that being required to publically express deeply held and personal political beliefs, or risk censure by refusing to express them, has no place in a democracy.
Anthony March 29, 2011 at 02:48 PM
I attended P.S. 58 throughout the 1990s and middle school at 142s (although it wasn't called 142 at the time) and I cannot remember a time when we didn't stand for the Pledge.
Tony March 29, 2011 at 04:12 PM
That's a regression, separation of state and church is a must for a modern democraty. Shame on the extremists
Dennis Middlebrooks March 29, 2011 at 07:51 PM
I recited the Pledge for years at P.S 58 and JHS 142 and it did not make me any more patriotic. The daily recitation (twice on Assembly days) trivialized the Pledge, which is nothing more than a loyalty oath that has no place in a democratic society. And since 1954, when the words "Under God" were added, it has been used to impugn the patriotism of non-religious Americans. People should understand that the Pledge was written in 1892 in order to market the sale of flags on the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage. It became required in public schools a century ago because the Congress distrusted the millions of immigrants pouring into the USA from southern and eastern Europe. Xenophobia was the origin of the Plede recitals!
John March 29, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Thank you Dennis for the history, for sure the pro-pledge are fanatics and don't know their history How come ou country added "under God" in 1954 as the seperation between the state and the church is supposed to be central to our government?
CARMEN March 29, 2011 at 09:58 PM
This IS America, Right?..Get over it..you live in the U. S. of A for a reason Pledge Allegiance and get on with your wonderful life here!
John March 29, 2011 at 10:26 PM
Yes Carmen I live in the US but there is a separation between the state and the church, that's a key component of modern democraty So no I don't get over it The government, public shcools have to stay neutral vis a vis religious affairs
CARMEN March 29, 2011 at 10:47 PM
I don't know who is more sad. the fundamentalists or the separatists . To quote some one older and wiser "there are no atheists in foxholes". This country was founded on People looking to express their faith..no matter what religion. All the Continental Congress started with prayer. The old adage never discuss religion or politics.
Dennis Middlebrooks March 30, 2011 at 12:44 PM
The phrase "Under God" was added at the instigation of the Knihgts of Columbus at the height of Cold War, McCarthy Eras hysteria as a counter to "godless communism". For the same reason, our purely secular national motto for 180 years, E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One) was replaced wth "In God We Trust" in 1956. some of the strongest advocates of these theocratic gestures were the segregationist Congressman from the Deep South. Both changes have been used to smear atheists, agnostics, and pantheists as un-American ever since.
Dennis Middlebrooks March 30, 2011 at 12:50 PM
Yes, this is America, and it is un-American to mandate daily loyalty oaths from citizens, and children are citizens! There was no Pledge of Allegiance prior to 1892, and somehow the USA managed to achieve independence, end slavery, expand to the Pacific Ocean, and become a world power. BTW, the Founding Fathers never said the Pledge, and neither did Abrahmam Lincoln, U.S. Grant or the 360,000 men who died to save the Union in the Civil War.
Dennis Middlebrooks March 30, 2011 at 12:58 PM
"There are no atheists in foxholes" is a canard that religious bigots like to throw out. The late Pat Tillman, the former NFL star who was killed in action in Afghanistan, was an atheist, and so was his brother, also a Ranger serving in his unit. As per a survey, about 20% of the U.S. military is non-religious, and there is a fine organization called MAAF (Military Association of Atheists, Agnsotics and Freethinkers). Its president, Jason Torpy, is a veteran of the Iraq war. And my father, Marvin C. Middlebrooks, who was a U.S. Army Air Force sergeant at Wheeler Field in Hawaii on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked, was an agnostic. He ended the war as a lieutenant in the Navy serving on convoys in the North Atlantic. O course, the Pledge of Allegiance he had to recite as a child had no "Under God" in it.
CARMEN March 30, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Uncle. I will never use OMG again
Dennis Middlebrooks March 30, 2011 at 04:05 PM
CARMEN March 30, 2011 at 06:50 PM
I swear on the Easter Bunny!
Tony March 31, 2011 at 06:05 PM
We need the religious fanatics to calm down. Freedom is a key component of our country, freedom to not believe in god. To impose that pledge with "under god" to our children is just un-american.
Jon March 31, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Personally I am glad they are now re instituting the pledge and my child attends PS 29. If you don't want your child to recite the pledge that's your business and tell them to refrain. If you have a problem with the reference "under god" start a movement to remove it from the pledge - the original version was 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'
Tony March 31, 2011 at 11:51 PM
I do prefer the original version With Bush appointed religious fanatic currently at the supreme court, no way you can change that


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