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Declaration of Indigestion

posted Tuesday August 10th, 2010

Going through Annabelle’s First Day of School papers this evening, suddenly I felt a little nauseous.

There, amidst the cafeteria menu and the spelling list, was a sheet informing me that, according to Arizona law, fourth, fifth and sixth graders in public school will be required as of August 23 to recite a paragraph from the Declaration of Independence every morning.

Funny, before I had kids, I knew all about the laws our legislature was passing. Remember that line from Broadcast News, where Holly Hunter’s character is horrified that some guy she wants to date (or maybe it’s Albert Brooks’ character who wants to date some woman) doesn’t know all the members of the cabinet? That used to be me.

These days, I’m lucky I can name the vice president. I had kids, and brain cells cascaded from every orifice. And really, that’s not funny at all, because now’s the time I should be most aware of what sorts of horrors our incredibly backward state legislators are bestowing upon my kids.

This new law, of course, is far from the worst thing these (and here I’d like to use the term “mouth breathers” but I fear that’s almost as bad as saying “retards” so I’ll just say “elected officials”) elected (not by me!) officials did this year. But consider, in the wake of Arizona’s new but not yet (and maybe not ever to be) fully enacted anti-immigration law, the fact that kids in public school are now required to recite each morning:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Created equal? Endowed with the right to the pursuit of happiness? Um, yeah, not exactly, not for everyone in Arizona, not these days. Not everyone has rights. Not if our legislature and governor can help it.

I thought about refusing to allow Annabelle to participate in the daily droning — er, I mean, reciting — but realized quickly that would just open her to being ostracized, and while I open myself to that all the time, I’m not going to do it to my kid.

This will be like the Pledge was for me when I was in school — she’ll say it quickly each morning, thinking not about the intentions of the Founding Fathers but instead about what might be in her lunch box, or whether there’s going to be a math pop quiz. The whole thing will totally lose meaning for her, and that’s not good, but I suppose it’s not the worst thing that can happen.

The whole thing just creeps me out. And if someone asked me, I’d say let’s have a daily recitation, sure. But let’s make it something different every day. How about a proverb, or a quote, something the class can spend a few minutes chewing on — and the teacher can send a list home every week so the family can continue the discussion. You could even include some wisdom from Arizona politicians, like Barry Goldwater, who once said, “To disagree, one doesn’t have to be disagreeable.” Or a quip from my favorite Mo Udall: “If you can find something everyone agrees on, it’s wrong.”

I’d love to see a group of nine-year-olds hash those over. Let the Arizona Legislature recite the Declaration of Independence if they’re so into the idea. They’re the ones who could use a daily reminder of our supposed rights.

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Tags: Filed under: politics, public school, Uncategorized by Amysilverman

12 Responses to “Declaration of Indigestion”

  1. i completely agree amy.

  2. So well put, Amy. Why can’t they make it more meaningful? Just more politicians telling teachers what to teach. Looks good for a sound bite. Like they “supported” education. So lame.

  3. Wow.

    What if you organized a group of parents to protest this?

    That way, you’d avoid the ostracism problem and maybe even get some public pressure on the legislature to actually think about the declaration. Because I am afraid that there may be some mouth-breathers who don’t read your blog.

    In all your free time, you know, I think you should start a social movement. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to rescue our founding documents from stupid fundamentalists….

  4. Good points.

    It could be worse: To learn at least something about the Declaration makes more sense than that mindless pledge to a cloth symbol.

    Imagine an AZ resident, upon interrogation for suspicion of being an “illegal” , reciting the paragraph you cited above.

    What is it that makes fundamentalism oblivious to the fundamentals of the ideals they think they endorse?

    When I was in the 4th grade in the 50s, we were mandated to learn the state song, which is, IMHO, a musical and literary abomination: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas,_Our_Texas

  5. Annabelle is soooo lucky to have you as a mom. I can feel your frustration and I so admire your decision as far as letting things be what they are. I also admire your honesty. My kids (both in HS) saw me this morning empassioned by your blog and we had the opportunity to discuss this post and the issues it raises. Thank you Amy for being You!

  6. Amy can’t stage a protest because she’s surrouned by moms who are terrified that their kid will wind up in the same building with a peanut or something made with white flour, and then have to be rushed to the ER. She’d be the only one brave enough to show up at her own protest.

    This Reading from the Declaration thing is an atrocity, of course, but why not let kids learn early about hypocrisy? It’s the foundation upon which our country is built.

  7. Actually, the Pledge of Allegiance was good for me. It was my first form of social protest. I woudn’t say “under God”, the part “they” added in the 1950′s. At least your kid isn’t forced to appear in Christmas Pageants even if she’s Jewish, as we were (briefly, Mom got us “sick” the next year and anyway I never say the “Christ the Lord” part either.).

  8. Well, my daughter has been reciting this since Kindergarten (she is now in 5th grade) when we moved to AZ from Ohio (Kyrene School District). She’s been saying, “South evident,” clearly not thinking about or knowing the words she is saying (“droning”). But, I actually thought it was kind of interesting that the kids knew a part of the “Declaration of Independence.” I had to spend my mornings saying the “Our Father” or “Hail Mary” due to the choices my parents made regarding religion. So, I was bent on sending my kids to a decent PUBLIC school that emphasized character and the “Golden Rule.”

    I agree it seems highly ironic that they would legislate this now – and it seems awfully suspicious among an atmosphere of accusations that people can’t say the word “God” without offending someone (I’m really tired of that one just because I don’t really think it’s true). Still in all, if we step back from this very current turbulent tide, I think it’s cool they know a bit more U.S. History. A dialogue just needs to accompany it more… perhaps a quote from John Adams or Thomas Jefferson or ABIGAIL Adams, changing it up a bit each day/week reminding the kids of what our founders fought for and how it’s relevant today… and boy is it EVER relevant today!

    Thanks, Amy. I do believe there’s a balance to be struck here. -Suzanne

  9. Irony is the word- complex issue. I agree a bit with Suzanne about our kids learning something besides making money values!

  10. Oh my… I used to live in AZ. I’m so glad no more. Of course any state could be living in the hypocrisies of it’s leaders. I’m not saying PA is any better in the end. We live in a very state that walks the Mason/Dixon line… we see this amazingly hidden prejudice living and breathing right in front of us (well those of us who care to look).

    Bravo to you for calling it out!

  11. Gee, never thought I’d be glad to say my child attends a charter school! I think I’m really glad now! I am assuming that this particular school will NOT be having the kids say this.

    Our legislature sure seems to put some hokey crap together instead of dealing with any real issues! Hello! Not real concerned about human/animal cloning but I think some tax loopholes could be constructive!

    So glad I found this blog! Thank you for your wit and humor! I have a “special needs” daughter and find your insights of value.

  12. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree with your decision not to have your daughter abstain. Maybe, somehow, her generation will be the one who truly soaks in those words and truly understands the meaning.

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