Let Mason Michalec zip it for the Pledge of Allegiance — but make him stand in silence

Mason Michalec KHOU screenshot

It seems like every year there are a few stories of pimply-faced kids refusing to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In the past it usually had to do with a president from Texas named George Bush. Today, a student from Texas refuses to say the Pledge because of the actions of a president from Hawaii named Barack Obama. Shocker.

KHOU Texas reported May 7:

NEEDVILLE, Texas — Mason Michalec says he loves his country but just not the government.

“I’m really tired of our government taking advantage of us,” said Michalec. “I don’t agree with the NSA spying on us. And I don’t agree with any of those Internet laws.”

That’s why he’s taken a pledge of sorts to not say the Pledge of Allegiance with classmates. …

Michalec says the principal sentenced him to two days of in school suspension, and warned that he could face more ISS if his protest continued. …

“And I think it’s time that people do something for themselves and stop taking whatever’s handed to them,” said Michalec. “I’m angry and frustrated and annoyed that they would try to write me up for something I have the right to do.”

According to KHOU 11 News legal expert attorney Gerald Treece, the sanctions imposed by the school appear to violate Michalec’s first amendment rights.

Using the statist’s logic, if the government can force Americans to engage in economic activity (i.e., buy health insurance) simply because they live and breath in the United States, why can’t it force a silent American to engage in government-sanctioned propaganda (i.e., the Pledge)?

Personally, I always thought that saying the Pledge in high school was a bit much. I think having good teachers who don’t spew anti-American propaganda is more important than forcing kids to say the Pledge, which brings up another point: propaganda can be a good thing (e.g., rallying a nation through a war effort) thing or a bad thing (e.g., teaching kids only the worst aspects of their country’s history), but it’s still propaganda.

When I was a high school substitute teacher I had a student who refused to stand and say the Pledge. I told him that I wasn’t going to force him to say the Pledge and I wasn’t going to force him to hold his hand over his heart, but I was going to see to it that he stood respectfully while the rest of the class engaged in the activity. It is perfectly within any teacher’s right to ask a student to stand up.

The student’s reasoning for not saying the Pledge: “I’m not an American. I’m Mexican.”

I asked him where he was born. Answer: “America.”

“So you were born in America, you live in America, you receive a public education that is funded by American taxpayers, you speak English and you’re completely immersed in American culture — but you’re not an American and won’t say the Pledge? Gotcha,” I said.

I told the student (and by extension the class) that we wouldn’t begin our lesson — on that day or any day moving forward while I was in charge — until the kid stood in respectful silence. It didn’t take long for him to come around. How does the saying go: “Peer pressure is a bitch”? No in school suspension needed. No Chicago news stories going viral. I got to establish my legitimate authority and he got to feel like a rebel by zipping his lips during a creed he didn’t believe in (at that time in his life). As an extra bonus, his fellow students got to witness the immaturity of his “I’m not an American” argument.

In those days it was often very difficult to hold my tongue and not say what was truly on my mind. It would have been cathartic to say, “No, you’re an American — you’re just a sorry excuse for an American. You’re an ungrateful little boy who is too ignorant to know it at the moment.”

You can not force someone to love you and you can not force a man (or a boy) to love his country. Forcing an individual to say words he doesn’t believe in, to me, seems strange. However, forcing a student to stand respectfully during an event the rest of the class is participating in — while allowing an individual to abstain from an articulating an oath he doesn’t believe in — seems to strike a proper balance.

Agree? Disagree? I’d like to hear what you think, especially if you’re an educator .