In Buddy Boy’s four year old daycare classroom they are learning to pledge allegiance to the flag. Whoever is the star of the week gets to hold up the flag and everyone puts their right hand on their heart and recites. We have a little flag hanging around in the back seat of our car, left over from last summer’s parade, and on the way to school Buddy likes to wave it and say the pledge. This morning he said: “OK everyone, right hands up! Right hands! Say the pledge!” This is unusual because he normally won’t let me take either hand off the wheel. If I scratch my nose he calls out “Two hands! Two hands!” I have no idea where he learned that… possibly watching my mother watch my father drive…
We have discussed the different phrases and their meaning, unlocking the complexities of allegiance, republic, indivisible, liberty, and justice on what I hope is a four year old’s level of understanding. His pronunciation is approximate at best, and it reminds me of the way Bette Bao Lord portrays her Chinese-American character Shirley’s interpretation of the Pledge in her book In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson:
“I pledge a lesson to the frog of the United States of America, and to the wee puppet for witches’ hands. One Asian, in the vestibule, with little tea and just rice for all.”
I used to keep that quote posted by my desk when I was teaching first grade, just to keep in mind who I was dealing with. Of course I was teaching in a Quaker school, and Quakers don’t recite the pledge because they believe they should only pledge allegiance to God and not to human institutions. Buster, my oldest son, went to Quaker school up through third grade and never knew of the pledge until he switched to public school in fourth. At the end of the first day of fourth grade when he came home I asked him how his day was. He said it was good yadda yadda and they had to stand up and say something to the flag. He wondered what that was all about. Whoops! In all my planning to ease his adjustment I forgot to tell him about the pledge of allegiance! Buddy is going to a Quaker school next year so I guess its good he is getting his pledge lessons in right now.