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My daughter started attending kindergarten this year, and her teacher is requesting all the students to learn and recite the pledge of allegiance.

I have no problem with the pledge itself, the thing is that we are foreign citizens living in the U.S. with a Non-Immigrant visa which expires in a couple of years. The terms of our visa clearly state that we should have the intention of returning to our home country.

I discussed with my wife and she told me it is not a big deal, it is just something that my daughter has to do on school.

I haven't talked with her teacher, I was planning to let it pass but today she mention to the kids that grading is coming and they have to learn it. Can this really be graded? I am not sure if grades at Kindergarten are important.

I don't want to disrespect the country where we are guests.

I don't want my daughter to have animosity against the U.S. and I don't want to force her to "love" her home country. She needs to choose her own path in life, I just don't like the idea of memorizing something as important and then say it without feeling it. She currently does not understand the concept of citizenship, for her, Mexico and the United States are the same, you just speak Spanish in Mexico an English in the U.S.

I am not sure if I should talk with my daughter about citizenship now She is only five, this probably shouldn't be a concern for her.

Am I making a storm in a glass of water?

I think words are really powerful and the experiences she has today will shape her ideas for the rest of her life.

10 Answers 10

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Assuming a public school setting, legally, your daughter's teacher is clearly in the wrong here. The famous 1943 Supreme Court case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette ruled that students cannot legally be coerced to salute or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In the majority opinion of the court, Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.

I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with the court case and then make an appointment to meet your your daughter's teacher and the school principal. Start our by explaining that you are not comfortable with your child being forced to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher and principal may be understanding, or they may not. If they are not, I would suggest that you then explain to them that what they are doing is illegal, citing the Supreme Court's ruling on the subject.

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I think we have to disentangle two important concepts here:

  1. A matter about faith

  2. A matter about cultural identity and citizenship

Viewed through the lens of concept 1, citing the pledge of Allegiance without believing in it is the same as being forced to take part in a religious exercise of a confession you do not follow. For some people this isn't an issue, they simply go through the motions and get it over with. Others think it violates their free will and they do not like to be forced to hypocritical behavior (doing something and not believing it).

If you or more importantly your daughter have a problem with the recital on the grounds that you do not like hollow expressions of faith, feel free to have a reasonable discussion with your teachers. Otherwise it simply isn't a big thing, so if it doesn't bother your daughter just let her do it.

The second concept is mentioned in your question as well. Are we violating (legally or in spirit) our commitment to return to our home country by reciting the pledge of allegiance?

Very certainly not! Stating the pledge will not get you in trouble with Visa officials nor will it somehow plant the seed in the mind of your daughter that you intend to stay forever.

However it does bring up the complexity of raising a child in a foreign country and culture with an uncertain foot out of the door. To address this and your own feelings of unease you should use this opportunity to teach your daughter a bit more about her culture and what it means to live in several worlds at once. You might think she is too young but she certainly isn't if you put in terms she can connect to.

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    I would love to see the PofA removed permanently from all schools at all grade levels. It's indoctrination, and as you say creates conflicts when a child should be allegiant to their native country, or even when their religion does not permit allegiance to a secular organization. – Carl Witthoft Sep 17 at 13:30
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  • Your daughter should certainly learn to be respectful while others recite the pledge. For older children it is clear that the standing quietly and calmly does show the appropriate respect. Getting this across to your daughter and other kindergarten kids could be problematic. That's a point for not raising a fuss and not making her an outsider.
  • I find it appropriate to memorize (and get tested on) things at school which one does not believe. The ability to quote something correctly and to summarize a position one does not share is a scholarly achievement, and so is the ability to tell a quotation from an endorsement. Again getting this across to your daughter might be a bit early, but it answers the question of a graded test.
  • That leaves the question of feeling "dishonest" about pledging allegiance to a flag which is not truly hers. Could you be projecting your feelings into her?
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You're asking this on a Parenting website, so I'll answer from that point of view - Buzz covered the legal angle effectively.

I would suggest that this is a complex issue that does not have a direct answer. As a parent, you want to teach your children "right" and "wrong", and reciting a pledge of allegiance that you consider "wrong" (or at least, don't believe in) certainly seems "wrong".

However, there are other issues to weigh here. Assuming you press your case, she might be the only child to sit; that can be very difficult as a child. Depending on your origin, she might already be clearly "different" visually; to children that age, that can be irrelevant, or it can be very relevant.

You also will have a social complication of your own, possibly, if you press this issue. If you ask the teacher not to require it of her, and she declines, then you may have to go through the principal, the school district administration, or even the court system; while you'll certainly prevail, it might be at the cost of the teacher's favor, and that could have an impact on your daughter's education (unfortunately). (I'm not saying the teacher definitely would hold it against you, but certainly it's possible they would be that petty, and it's something to be aware of.)

My suggestion is to sit down with the teacher and explain to them your reasons. I'd also suggest that you suggest to them that they treat this as a learning moment: after a few days of your daughter sitting, the teacher explain to the children why she's sitting, and use it to explain diversity and immigration and those concepts. The teacher can do so in a way that makes your daughter seem special, as opposed to weird, if they choose to. I've seen similar (not identical) things done, and it often works very well. It doesn't eliminate the social aspect, but it can minimize it - but only if you have the teacher's buy in.

But I'd first talk to your daughter, explain all of it to her, and consider her feelings on the matter. She may prefer to mouth the words and be the same as everyone else; and I think that's okay, if you have a frank conversation about it. It may be important to her to fit in, and you do her a disservice to force her to not do so. Instead, let her make a choice, within reasonable bounds, but an informed choice.

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    "As a parent, you want to teach your children "right" and "wrong", and reciting a pledge of allegiance that you consider "wrong" (or at least, don't believe in) certainly seems "wrong"." If they want to teach their child right and wrong, they should object to it, regardless of whether they or the child feels comfortable reciting it. When you see someone breaking the law, the moral response isn't "Is this hurting me personally?" – Acccumulation Sep 15 at 18:35
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    @Acccumulation Absolutely; but the point of my answer is both that you should be aware of the consequences of acting, and that you should allow the child to make the decision on what to do to some extent (since she's the one that is impacted by this). Every action you take balances consequences with belief, after all; being aware of those and balancing choices you make with the consequences is an important element to learn. – Joe Sep 15 at 20:38
  • But I'd first talk to your daughter, explain all of it to her, and consider her feelings on the matter. This is not realistic. The kid is 5 years old. Kids at that age don't even understand things like honesty and deception. – Ben Crowell Sep 16 at 20:52
  • @BenCrowell That's certainly not true. They may not have an adult understanding, but both of my children have had similar conversations with me at that age. (See How to Raise an Adult for more on treating your children as adults during conversations liek this appropriately.) – Joe Sep 16 at 22:35
  • I could see this being used as a teaching point, by the teacher, although I don't know enough of elementary education to know if this is a good age for it. – CGCampbell Sep 17 at 12:31
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Maybe you should just ask your daughter's teacher how that teacher would feel about a 5-year-old U.S. citizen abroad being forced to pledge allegiance to another country.

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Listen to your wife. That is to say, pick your battles.

School isn't geared for absolutely individualized instruction. It is a factory where children are run through various processes and exit with a degree.

The primary thing to me in this situation is that you don't want your daughter to stand out lest she get picked on, teased, or bullied.

At home just explain in simple terms what the US pledge is, and let it go. When you go back to Mexico she will miss her friends not reciting the US pledge of allegiance.

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  • YES, choose your battles! Leave the kid out of it. If you have to sit in yourself, pretend you're in fascist Spain or in Turkey and mentally substitute the words "justice for all" with "justice for some". You're good to go. – PatrickT Sep 18 at 4:50
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She will simply be reciting a poem as far as she is concerned - she is too young to take or be held to an oath. You can explain at home that this is what Americans say and that when you return home she won't have to say it any more but it's polite to say it while in the U.S. Otherwise, as @o.m. says this will cause a problem that she doesn't understand and she may have to leave the room while her friends say it. She will wonder why and so will her friends.

P.S. You could even teach her to say something like "They pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America ..." You can explain this to her and the teacher and tell her how to explain to her friends if they ask.

e.g. "You are American and I'm not so I have to say it this way."

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The question was if its making too much of a problem to single her out and send her away from her classmates during a lesson. For a kindergartener I think it is. They are just saying words together and wont fully understand them until they are older. Its very hard for the little ones to understand why they are being sent out while everyone else is staying with teacher. Going with the flow IMHO will cause less distress, and its easy to explain that different countries have different ways of approaching respect for their flags. If she is sent out it could cause her to be teased by the others. When I was in Kindergarten it was that German kid that might be a Nazi. His Step Father came in and tried to chill us out but it didn't work so well and we tried to defend him, but he stood out. He never did go back to Germany but I saw him some years back and he (30 years later) still slouches and acts picked on.

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Having grown up in a communist country, I seem to remember I had to learn to recite a few pledges which got invalid later on. (shame on me, I was quite a good learner and enjoyed learning those) I am quite happy that where I live, children are left alone in this regard, but on the other hand I do not think this is in any way damaging to your child.

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I personally think that by making a specktackle of this, that it could cause animosity in the child's environment, and perhaps shame and embarrassment, maybe even to feel different than her peers, as to not fit in. This could cause some emotional harm to the child. My suggestion is to ask yourself why it would be such an issue for you personally, where is this actually coming from, and why do you feel driven to make an issue out of it? Would it not be best to simply explain to the child what it is, and why they do the pledge in the country you are in, and that it is a matter of the heart on which it is actually served or not? Best wishes, __Glory, of Muslimah Of The WEST.

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