Friday, September 12, 2008

Things Seen 7

Part of the flyer for "Freedom Week" at my son's school:


Firstly (what an ugly word!), I don't think they're teaching the kids anything about what freedom means, beyond U.S.A. = Freedom. Of course I want my child to be able to analyze and deconstruct that with his eyes closed. And I'm frightened to think about how patriotism will be defined.

Secondly, I'm bothered because despite my largely-wordless-but-obvious sarcasm, my son wants to participate. That's how most kids are--they want to do what other kids around them are going to do. That's why people who brush off objections to school prayer and recitation of the pledge are clueless (or don't give a damn)--it doesn't matter if you say kids don't have to participate, they don't want to stand out like that. My saying, "Patriotism and freedom are not about wrapping yourself in some colors," has absolutely no effect now.

Finally, "Freedom Week" is the week after Spetember 11. How many more ways can a legitimate tragedy be milked of all meaning to 1) make a political statement and 2) demand false displays of nationalism?

I know there are some things I have to accept, living in the South (and as I told my Texas students, you joined the Confederacy, you are at least partially southern :-), but damn, this is ridiculous.
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P.S. What does it mean, to "support the flag?" That was strange to me.

8 comments:

k8 said...

What you said! Another thing I don't like about this sort of thing is that the kids who don't have clothes for this (and maybe can't afford them) are put in a really bad position. Nothing like using institutional pressure to alienate kids.

Emily said...

That's what I was thinking: does this mean that some kids are going to have to wear the same outfit over and over, while some kids can't participate at all, while some kids just have oodles of clothes?

I do like how they put "FUN" in quotes on the flyer, though.

Fourth Wave Feminism said...

What a strange, strange idea (although I guess I shouldn't be too shocked). I wonder what the school board/school officials thought they were going to achieve. Is this just a way to "market" patriotism to children or is actually supposed to turn into a learning experience? And, you're totally right, that the equation of freedom=U.S.A. is troublesome. I think by the time I was in third grade I started refusing to say the pledge, but it's probably something you have to let children decide for themselves. My parents certainly didn't tell me it was something I had to do, although we had discussed why they felt it was problematic and let me come to my own decision...

bfp said...

in regards to the pledge--I think the good thing is that for most kids, they recite it and haven't got a damn clue what the hell they are saying. it was just a mumble of sounds to me, that i started to pull together because i was told to. I don't know if you ever read the ramona quimby series (by beverly cleary?)? In that series, it kinda displays what I think happens w/ most kids. Ramona starts going to school where she learns the "dawnzer" song. which equals the star spangled banner. nobody ever explains what it is your singing, nobody tells you the words, because you start singing/reciting in kindergarden and you can't read! And i think that as you get older, it's just something that you do, not something that you think about, unless you have parents that make the effort to actually talk to you about it.

this fun week, tho--kids have to make a very conscious choice to participate. kids are saying to other kids, "what are *you* wearing for freedom week?" they're coming home and asking parents to clean blue shirts etc so that they can participate in freedom week.

the fact that nobody is *guiding* them through this thought process--outside of "freedom=U.S.A."--that is frightening. and it's what, I think, leads to hundreds of people screaming U.S.A. at single protesters at conventions or drill drill drill drill---

landismom said...

Good post!

gradmommy said...

If the main objection (which I also share) is the freedom=USA, would it be better if they just called it "USA Week" to celebrate being American or to celebrate America?

gradmommy said...

I agree that this is nutty and scary. I wonder, though, if they'd called it "USA Week" I would feel the same way? If the main objection is to freedom=USA, would it be okay to have a week celebrating being American?

elle said...

This comment thread, on first look, was such a privilege check for me. I didn't even consider the families who couldn't afford to participate, the children who will feel isolated, again.


Gradmommy, it's not just freedom week, for me. On the surface, USA week might as if it wouldn't be as problematic, but they have a display in the hallway about "What is an American" and some of the images of what the kids consider not American is chilling.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...