10-year-old refuses to say Pledge of Allegiance until everyone has equal rights

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  November 23, 2009 10:20 AM

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A 10-year-old Arkansas boy is refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance at school until our country does a better job of living up to its ideals.

"I looked at the end and it said 'with liberty and justice for all.' And there really isn't liberty and justice for all," Will Phillips told CNN recently. "Gays and lesbians can't marry. There's still a lot of racism and sexism in the world."

You know what? I think he's got a great point.

Most of us grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance automatically every morning at school. But how many kids take the time to think about what it really means?

The Pledge of Allegiance has been an American tradition since September 8, 1892, when a Boston-based magazine called The Youth's Companion published the recitation, originally called "The Pledge to the Flag," and suggested it be read as part of the next month's Columbus Day celebrations. It read: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

The Pledge was published anonymously and was not copyrighted; it is thought to have been written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister who was forced to leave his church because of his Socialist sermons. The beginning of the Pledge was changed in 1924 to "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America," and the controversial "under God" was added in 1954.

In October, after analyzing the text and asking his parents whether he was legally obligated to participate (he's not), Will decided to remain seated and silent when his class recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The substitute teacher asked him to stand; he respectfully refused. This went on for four days, until the teacher got angry with him; Will told her "With all due respect, ma'am, you can go jump off a bridge." He was sent to the principal's office.

“Yes, my son is 10,” Will's mom, Laura Phillips, told The Arkansas Times. “But he's probably more aware of the meaning of the pledge than a lot of adults. He's not just doing it rote recitation. We raised him to be aware of what's right, what's wrong, and what's fair.”

Arkansas News columnist John Brummett points out that forcing kids to recite the Pledge of Allegiance "is, in fact, kind of antithetical to our very principle of constitutionally guaranteed liberty.... a mass forced pledging of nationalistic allegiance is, when you really think about it, a perversion of the greater notion that we love and support our country by our own choice and for the very freedoms it grants us."

Will's peaceful protest has drawn ire from some pretty predictable sources. Classmates focused on the fact that he thinks gays should have the right to marry say he's "a gaywad." And he's been slammed by more than a few adults for being disrespectful, disobedient, and unpatriotic. "I remember this type of disrespect being in vogue among the lower class black kids at my high school, but I never expected to see it from a middle-class white kid," commenter "Ray" wrote at The Arkansas Times "To the parents I say 'United States of America, Love It Or Leave It, and take your little brat with you', " commenter "Monroe" added.

There's the irony, as far as I'm concerned: Exercising one's right to freedom of speech in order to insult a child for exercising his. Insisting that a kid shouldn't be free to disagree because doing so is disrespectful of the flag and everything it represents -- including freedom.

"Just because he's 10 years old doesn't mean he doesn't have opinions," his father, Jay Phillips, told CNN. "It doesn't mean he doesn't have rights and doesn't mean that he can't make a difference."

Parents, what do you think? Is civil disobedience a tool to be used by adults only, or do children have the right to peacefully protest? Where's the line when it comes to freedom?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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74 comments so far...
  1. I think he's a smart kid. We teach kids to share, use their words, never hit or use violence and to be kind to everyone. Then you look/read the news and what are the "adults" doing? Exactly what we say not to do!
    Hmmm....

    Posted by Laurie November 23, 09 08:49 PM
  1. Your child has the ability to choose because of our pledge. Teach your kid respect!

    Posted by Bruce Avitabile November 23, 09 11:59 PM
  1. With all due respect you can jump of a bridge...I would be irate if my child said this to a teacher.

    While I certainly am upset and disheartened by the direction of the country, it is still a pretty amazing place to live. Our children could be born in Iraq where they worry about being bombed, in Afghanistan where the girls can't go to school, in many of the countries in Africa where the corrupt government officials take all of the aid and the citizens starve to death.

    So I would encourage my kids to fight for health insurance for all, marriage for same sex couples, and many other actions that would make this a better country. I would not, however, appreciate them refusing to say the pledge of allegiance and I would be very upset if they told a teacher to jump off a bridge.

    Posted by Jayne November 24, 09 09:03 AM
  1. "Your child has the ability to choose because of our pledge. Teach your kid respect!"

    The pledge has nothing to do with it! He has the right to choose because of the US Constitution. He is not disrespecting that or anyone else's right to say the pledge. He got his parents' permission (and they should have informed the school and the substitute teacher about his being excused from saying the pledge). He should not have told the sub to jump off a bridge, but he did get reprimanded for that.

    As an adult, I don't remember any time in my life other than school when it was necessary to say this pledge. Not quite sure why they teach it if there's no point in your life you actually need to use it... Not like the national anthem.

    I think he's a brave kid, especially since he's become the target of other (intolerant) children calling him horrible names.

    Posted by Mom2Be November 24, 09 09:59 AM
  1. Children deserve the freedom to influence their environment as much as any adult. The size of the choices that they face should be based on their ability to comprehend and manage the situation. By doing the research and thinking about the issue, this boy has shown that he is capable of making this decision and is willing to accept the consequences of his actions.

    Posted by whoisdagney November 24, 09 10:02 AM
  1. You pledge allegiance in order to take responsibility to help the US become a better place. If you refuse to pledge allegiance, you are abdicating your civic responsibilities and should be treated accordingly, which may include expulsion. That should come as no surprise as a result.

    Posted by Phred November 24, 09 10:22 AM
  1. Avitabile, well said! appreciate what we do have and work on what we need to have or improve, by the way..this is most certainly the opinion of the parents of the boy, a 10 yr old is definitely influenced on what he hears at home, shame on them for not teaching him objectivity.

    Posted by rick November 24, 09 10:29 AM
  1. Telling a teacher to jump off a bridge after 4 days of being harrassed by him or her tells me that this kid not only has a brain ("I looked at the end and it said 'with liberty and justice for all.' And there really isn't liberty and justice for all") but patience as well.

    Ya know, the Hitler Youth were forced to recite their pledges of allegiance, too. That turned out pretty well.

    Posted by Damian November 24, 09 10:31 AM
  1. If it was my child, I would be OK with him refusing to say the pledge, but not telling the teacher to jump off of a bridge. In my mind, that's where he crossed the line. I think that if it's truly that important to him, he and his parents should have gone to the principal proactively. I think he was being a bit of a snot for refusing to even stand - that was not an unreasonable request. The key, to me, is that you disagree respectfully. It's respectful to stand while the pledge is being recited or while the national anthem is being played.

    Honestly, I think it's pretty stupid that we pledge allegiance to a piece of fabric. The 'republic for which it stands'? Sure. The flag? Not so much.

    Posted by akmom November 24, 09 10:32 AM
  1. Oh, please, you know it's coming from the parents.

    Posted by ME November 24, 09 10:39 AM
  1. I hope this kid runs for office one day - WOW - at 10 (when peer pressure is starting to really come in to play), having the courage of his convictions. I am SO proud of him. He is learning that sometimes it is hard to be true to oneself - particularly in the face of those who reportedly know better.....but each time he takes a stand, he is sending out the true message of what the USA stands for!!!! God bless him & his future!!!!!

    Posted by Jakesaunt November 24, 09 10:59 AM
  1. This boy is America's future! He epitomizes everything we SHOULD stand for. Bravo!

    Posted by Jen November 24, 09 11:09 AM
  1. The thing is, Bruce, this child DOES respect the pledge. BECAUSE he respects it he's choosing not to say it because he feels it isn't true in our current times. He has every right to refuse saying the pledge.

    Posted by pledge this November 24, 09 11:11 AM
  1. Absolutely, children have the freedom to peacefully protest. Clearly, this child is a critical thinker and that's a trait to be commended. I don't know that I fully agree with his form of protest as a method to bring his chosen cause to light, but he's not disrupting anything by not saying the pledge. After all, the Jehova's Witness children in my elementary school never said it either due to religious reasons and it didn't disrupt anything whatsoever in our daily routine.

    I don't, however, agree with him telling his teacher to jump off a bridge (even with due respect, because I use that phrase a lot at work and we all know that it means, "STFU. You're an idiot so let me set the record straight and bump you forward in that line for your much needed rectal-craniotomy."). While I probably would have had to go to another room to laugh after being told what he said if I was his mom, I would still have to have given him a much needed lesson in diplomacy.

    Posted by phe November 24, 09 11:15 AM
  1. While I think he was, in fact, disrespectful to the substitute teacher (jump off a bridge), I applaud him for sticking to his principles. And, especially being only 10 years old, I think it is quite remarkable that he is so aware of his words and actions. I wish there were more children like him, or at least more that thought about the meaning by their words.

    Posted by kazanjig November 24, 09 11:21 AM
  1. good for him! I will never chastise my child for speaking his mind and sticking to his principles- which may I add include NOT saying the pledge either because it has certain words in it he doesnt believe in or as he put it' don't belong in my school' He is 12..

    Posted by Dana November 24, 09 11:38 AM
  1. Does the kid work for the ACLU? The parents must be athiests. Someone should call child services on them.

    Posted by LeBron November 24, 09 11:54 AM
  1. He has the right not to recite the pledge and others have the right to recite the pledge as long as neither side interferes with the other's rights there should be no issue

    Posted by Robin D. November 24, 09 12:11 PM
  1. He should NEVER had told an elder to "jump off a bridge." There are many, many respectful ways to express your opinion. That having been said, unfortunately there is not liberty and justice for all, however, he should be grateful that he is an American and that he can go to a heated home with electricity and running water, and watch, most likely HD TV on a widescreen. He should pledge his allegiance to this country for providing him that--comforts that we all take for granted.

    Posted by Babs November 24, 09 12:27 PM
  1. he is only 10 years old? I'm thinking he may have been coached re:
    '"I looked at the end and it said 'with liberty and justice for all.' And there really isn't liberty and justice for all," "Gays and lesbians can't marry. There's still a lot of racism and sexism in the world."

    Either that or he is very bright for his age!

    Posted by isitfridayyet November 24, 09 01:19 PM
  1. Babs- His country doesn't provide those comforts, his parents do.

    He is a smart child who is forming his convictions and should be commended and supported for peacefully sticking by them. Yes, he crossed the line with the "jump off a bridge" and he should be reprimanded for that. Otherwise, he has the same rights that both you and I do: to chose.

    Posted by tlf1211 November 24, 09 01:26 PM
  1. The commentary from the readers of The Arkansas Times is pretty much what's wrong with 51% of America. I hate to think about what those readers are teaching their children.

    This kid is amazing. I wish I had given The Pledge that much thought when I was in school. If I had, maybe I wouldn't have been a grade school robot.

    Posted by Dave November 24, 09 01:26 PM
  1. This is not necessarily "coming from the parents." Not that I ever refused to say the pledge at age 10, but I also could think for myself and speak out against things I disagreed with when I was 10. Some children develop intellectually earlier than others and there are kids like this boy who are very thoughtful and sharp at a young age. I too disagree with telling the teacher to jump off a bridge but commend him for standing up for his principles, even in taking an unpopular stance in front of his peers.

    Posted by Mike November 24, 09 01:27 PM
  1. First, let's be clear that it is not civil disobedience if you aren't breaking any laws.

    Second, we will believe anything you pro-Pledgers have to say about the Pledge is serious when we see you out pledging the flag every day - as you would force little kids to do. If you believe in government coercion, you should be the one's to move to another country where they don't have freedom.

    How soon we forget that Jehovah's Witnesses in Nazi Germany were among the first to be persecuted for refusing to stand during the Sieg Heil salute, which so closely resembles our Pledge of Allegiance. Forcing this upon our citizens, and especially our children, crosses a line that is un-American. And when you consider this is mostly elementary school age kids, it amounts to little more than bullying. (The substitute was a simple bully and by every measure had earned Will's disrespect.)

    Every American should understand that there is more to the Supreme Court ruling that applies here than just declaring it unconstitutional to force kids to stand for the Pledge. The majority opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, written by Justice Robert Jackson in 1943, became one of the great statements in American constitutional law and history.

    "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."

    The true legacy of Barnette is less its jurisprudence than its defense of the principles of freedom. Justice Jackson continued, "Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard."

    I would ask you to stop and think for a minute what kind of patriot you, yourself, are by where you stand on this basic principal we call freedom.

    --
    More at: http://members.cox.net/patriotismforall/

    Posted by Hifi November 24, 09 01:27 PM
  1. I don't think anyone should be required to recite a pledge of allegiance to anything.

    I commend this child on his thinking, but believe that the first time the teacher questioned his refusal, his parents should have contacted the school to discuss the matter. He certainly should not have told the teacher to jump in a lake.

    Posted by bgal November 24, 09 01:46 PM
  1. Justice?

    Well, I guess when I see things like OJ Simpson get away with murder, I should just disrespect the flag, right. According to such logic, I should take everything I think is unfair and stomp my little feet, fold my arms and pay no respect for the great country I live in.

    How many times to we as people fight for what we feel is injust. I'm not so sure that marriage for gays is a freedom or injustice question. There are already so many ways to tangle our lives with another legally that it is almost unnecessary. Why marriage?

    There is a complete economic difference between heterosexuals and homosexual relationships due to the fact that one union can procreate and the other cannot. I would fight for the right to marry any gay couple who adopts a child because in this case (and only this case) would they be equal as a union.

    While many will not agree with the premise that for the sake of parents and their children within the confines of marriage (the step we take to protect and define family) we provide social benefits for survivorship it is a misstep (and waste of limited resources) to provide such benefits for people who use sexuality and family as a means to benefit without such sacrifice.

    Shame on this kid for making a mockery of the allegiance to our country. He should really think about all those who have died for the sake of freedom and hope for justice. We are a country of people and because of this we make mistakes. Our freedoms (we see eroding every day) are vital and worthy of allegiance.

    Should every white person not say the pledge because OJ was acquitted of murder as black people everywhere rejoiced as though it were a badge of honor. I think not. That was blind, vengeful form of justice that is practiced every day. We're not perfect, but we are perhaps as good as it gets anywhere. Look at the Duke Lacrosse team being targeted by black leaders and they were innocent! No apologies, no nothing from them.

    No worries, soon enough this kid will be subject to the very injustices served up in third world countries and marxist havens. He'll have no liberty and no where here to make the most of his life as he wishes - it will all be taken and directed for him as the liberty-be-damN*ed forces continue to overtake this country.

    Posted by Leave US Please November 24, 09 01:57 PM
  1. If this was my child, I would be ok with not reciting the Pledge but I would NOT be ok with the disrespectful comment towards an adult. Also, I would explain to my child that it would be a good idea to stand up and respect the flag but still be true to his decision to not recite the Pledge. Good for you Will for standing up for what you believe in.

    Posted by Alexis November 24, 09 02:00 PM
  1. #6 is correct. The teacher should not have pressured him, but should have explained to the class and this boy that the Pledge is aspirational. The US is not perfect--that's impossible. However, our ideals lead us to continually improve and strive for a better country. Our history has shown that. That is why so many happily celebrate this coming Thursday.

    Also, this is definitely coming from the parents. It is their right to indoctrinate their son as they wish, but we should not be deluded into believing he did this all on his own.

    Posted by done November 24, 09 02:02 PM
  1. People who say "Love it or Leave it" are what's wrong with the country. If humans never changed their beliefs or ideologies, we'd still be building fires in huts. Society makes progress but there needs to be people who initiate the debate, people who make the debate a real issue and people who actually follow through and make the step forward. Imagine if you told a white, land owning man in 1800 that one day, the decedents of his slaves would be able to vote. How would he react?

    I realize that this kid is hardly initiating the gay marriage debate but he is getting people to talk about it, and the more people talk about it the more people will realize that it doesn't affect anyone who isn't gay. Refusing the pledge may not be the most appropriate action but what else can a 12 year old do to make national headlines?

    Posted by mtrem225 November 24, 09 02:03 PM
  1. Why is this news, exactly?

    And what 10 year old independently arrives at the conclusion that fellow citizens are being denied liberty? This kid was coached.

    I've never met a child that age who cared about such things. Hell, most adults don't care all that much.

    Posted by Noah November 24, 09 02:05 PM
  1. He is a smart child with his own feelings, thoughts and values. At some point you do teach your children to be themselves and this kid is just being himself and sharing his feelings. He is just trying to be himself and show his strong beliefs. He did say anything disrespecful accept telling his teacher to "jump off a bridge". But other than that, he is just exercising his rights and I think he is a brave little kid. I agree with Jayne that this is a great place to live and we are lucky to be here but this little boy just feels that things could be better and he is just trying to make a change. I give him credit for that.

    Posted by Laura November 24, 09 02:08 PM
  1. I agree wholeheartedly with akmom. If the parents wanted to teach this boy how to stay firm in his convictions but act in a civilized and respectful manner, they should have gone to the principal and chatted proactively. But that wouldn't have resulted in a news story, now, would it? I have a feeling that this boy is regurgitating what he has heard at home. Too bad the parents have used this young boy for their own agenda instead of turning this into a "teachable moment."

    Posted by JKR November 24, 09 02:52 PM
  1. I think it's more important to stand by your word, or don't stand at all, which is basically what he did - or didn't. He understands and respects the principle behind the flag, which is more important that talking to a non-living symbol with words that you don't believe.

    In all flag discussions, how many really consider the word "indivisible" as they tell other U.S. citizens to leave the country because of a disagreement in what they believe this country represents.

    We should not be blindly pledging allegiance to anything, although it may be reasonable to publicly support the principles by which this country was founded.

    While the kid's views may echo the parents', it still takes an understanding to be able to explain the position. So while I take points off for not teaching the kid to be respectful to an authority figure (one can disagree without being disrespectful), I give credit to the family for teaching civics to their kid, and explaining the real principles behind our country.

    Posted by craftsman November 24, 09 02:53 PM
  1. Poor kid, his parents obviously use him to manifest their views and get into newspaper. Lame. And to all of you praising the kid - you really don't see it?? You think it's the kid? Wow.

    Posted by Spicegirl November 24, 09 02:57 PM
  1. I think the disrespect he showed the teacher is deplorable, but the way he's decided to stay true to his beliefs by not pledging is fine, even admirable. Sure, he was probably influenced by his parents' ideals and by the people in his life. But what kid isn't?

    I'm surprised that no one has commented about the fact that the pledge was written by a minister who was kicked out of his church for being a socialist. How is it liberal, unpatriotic, or undemocratic to REFUSE to pledge to a socialist idea?

    Also surprised at the commenter who said the kid's parents must be Athiests. "Under God" was added to the pledge 62 years after it was written. The pledge has nothing to do with religion.

    Posted by Maya November 24, 09 03:25 PM
  1. "The substitute teacher asked him to stand; he respectfully refused. This went on for four days, until the teacher got angry with him..."

    Should he have told her to jump off a bridge? No, probably not. But I'm tired of reading how "deplorable" it is what he did, without anyone even questioning what the teacher did. Read the story. He "respectfully" refused to stand. His substitute teacher after 4 days "got angry with him." Frankly, it sounds like the teacher may have deserved it! He shouldn't disrespect his teacher. But the teacher has to show respect as well.

    Good for him. Its nice to see a kid actually think about what he's saying instead of just blinding repeating.

    It's not disrespecting the country. I think that standing up for what he believes in (respectfully) is a better way to honor those who helped provide those rights than by just blindly regurgitating a pledge without thinking.

    Posted by justleftma November 24, 09 03:52 PM
  1. If this kid is refusing to stand until everyone has equal rights he better get a comfy chair, its gonna be a heck of a wait! When there is still someone like Ray commenting as he did in the Arkansas Times, we are still such a long way off.

    And while he's waiting, his parents should teach him some manners.

    Posted by sandra November 24, 09 04:27 PM
  1. A child with an unpopular point of view has been "coached" and "indoctrinated" by his parents, but a child with a mainstream opinion comes to it on his or her own?

    Posted by Regina November 24, 09 04:59 PM
  1. I don't understand the vast majority of "freedom of speech" hypocrites out there. The kid didn't say anything un-American and he didn't interfere with anyone's rights. He's practicing his freedom of speech and good for him for being so brave about it, standing up for what you believe in is what America is all about people!! Come on! How dare so many people criticize such a brave kid.

    Posted by TonyT November 24, 09 06:20 PM
  1. For the pro-Pledgers, are you saying that a 10-year-old lacks the ability to think for himself? Are you saying that children educated in the system are unable to form thoughts and opinions on the current situations occuring within our own home turf?

    I applaud this child and commend him for standing up for an idea that he believes in. Isn't that what this country is? It was an idea that people who were persecuted for their beliefs had... an idea for a better tomorrow. So this child, among many others in this country, have an idea for what a better tomorrow means, and now... you as an adult who talks out of the both sides of your mouth when it comes to tolerance, acceptance, respect, and understanding refuse to show a person (age doesn't matter) the same courtesy you expect us to show you?

    I don't think so, buddy. I want to shake this child's hand. A lot of people don't pledge to the flag because of religious belief, but this child just doesn't believe this country is practicing what it preaches. Amen, Will!

    I know I had my own beliefs at his age, and no one could deter me from them. He is his own person, and shame on you guys for not thinking he could form his own beliefs.

    Posted by Alexandra November 24, 09 07:21 PM
  1. I wasn't going to comment until I got to the end. I hope justleftma realizes that the substitute teacher was probably tired of having her/his directions ignored by a 10 year old child. also, if one child refuses, and nothing happens, then everyone will decide to act up. Then the teacher will have nho control. I agree with the person who posted that after the first day, the parents shoud have approached the principal and discussed their position. Also, anyone who thinks it is okay for any child to tell his/her teacher to jump off a bridge needs to examine why he/she is so hostile towards teachers or other symbols of authority. As a veteran and as a teacher, I am disgusted by this behavior. We are very fortunate to live with the freedoms we have, and if you think we don't have it so good, look at other countries.

    Posted by Patches02 November 24, 09 10:17 PM
  1. For all the people who claim that the child was coached--are you telling me that all the other kids who do recite the pledge are not coached? For all the people with a problem with this child--they clearly are imparting certain messages to their children. The only difference is a disagreement. There is nothing wrong with his parents--and it is not shocking for people to be calling them atheists--as if your religious beliefs were somehow better than those with a different view point. I think he should be commended for not following along like a sheep like many other people, children and adults alike. He should be commended for thinking about what he was asked to do blindly every day.

    Posted by MakeLoveNotWar November 24, 09 11:13 PM
  1. I think that he should be forced to say the pledge, just to show him how free he really is here.

    Posted by M_S November 24, 09 11:14 PM
  1. This young man is amazing. He has every right not to say the pledge, and I'm unhappy as an adult that I never refused to say it. To me, it represents indoctrination. If someone else wants to say it, go ahead. But it's not required.

    Will Phillips engaged in peaceful and respectful protest, and he lost his patience with the substitute (who should have figured out, by the end of the week, that the pledge is not required). What he said was inappropriate, and should not have gone unnoticed or unpunished.

    But good for him for standing up (or, sitting down) for what he believes in. If you're worried about kids being disrespectful, then go do something about the classmates who harassed him.

    Posted by sabend November 24, 09 11:17 PM
  1. To all those who think the kid is being "indoctrinated" or "coached" by his parents - the kid is probably more intelligent than half of you all. Did you listen to his interview on CNN? He clearly has the ability to form and articulate his opinion without the help of his parents.

    But it's true - his view have been influenced by his parents, just as everyone has been influenced by their parents. The fortunate thing is his parents taught him to be open minded, accepting, and rational instead of close minded and retarded.

    Posted by Tim November 24, 09 11:31 PM
  1. People that don't believe these are his own thoughts are clearly not involved with any exceptionally intelligent children. I watched his interview on CNN and this boy is clearly above average intelligence and I have no doubt that those thoughts are his. My son is seven and has asked about gay marriage and I never hesitate to tell him that it is not legal in this country for gay people to marry. It's not a huge leap for a rational child to look at that and say, "That's not really right, is it?" or at a minimum, "Why not?" Now, if you're of a religious persuasion you'll spew some stuff about it being against G-d's law but hopefully more and more people are saying, "That's a good question."

    I applaud this kid for standing up for his beliefs. The jumping off a bridge comment was unacceptable in my mind and my child would be reprimanded for that but never for not saying the pledge. As an adult, when I am at his school I do not participate in the pledge and he does not say, "under G-d". I'd like for him to not say it at all but I want him to come to that decision on his own and not push it on him.

    Posted by JennM November 24, 09 11:39 PM
  1. Advocating for free speech and equal rights are laudable and American.
    Of course a 10 year-old can have an opinion and a stance (at 10, I was trying to convert my friends and teachers to Evangelical Christianity - it was the sixties and no one was coaching me - not even my mainstream Presbyterian parents). The issue here is one of informed consent. In a homophobic society, should a 10 year old be "allowed" to advocate for gay marriage? He can have an opinion, but he can't accurately forecast the duration and impact of taking that stance publicly at his age. 10 year olds aren't that cognitively developed. That's why he's got 8 years of school ahead of him. At some point, peer relationships are going to matter to him more than activism. The ****** label won't serve him, and most school systems do a poor job of protecting kids from homophobic harassment. It's up to adults to create a world where social justice and equality are the norm. It's also up to adults to protect kids. Kids want all sorts of things they shouldn't have - that's why we have age of majority statutes. 10 year old equality activists are far more vulnerable than
    adult activists. They can be bullied for their opinions; adults can protect themselves. In my opinion, as a gay man, this boy should not be presented as any kind of activist. He should be allowed to sit out the Pledge - like we hippy wannabes did in the 70's. The teacher overreacted. Negative reinforcement (ignoring his behavior) would have worked better.

    Posted by Uhclem November 24, 09 11:44 PM
  1. #26- It pretty incredible that this person took this much time to write such a lengthy and blatantly uninformed response. Talk to a gay person about what marriage means to them before you make this inferences. And if you looking for economic reasons to back gay marriage: gays have a higher median income than straight people. Do your research. Gays make more money so they can spend more on weddings and family vacations. I don't care what anyone says. Everyone has the right to have their relationship recognized in the eyes of the government and share in all the same benefits, regardless of ability to procreate. PS, adopting is illegal for a gay couple in Arkansas, hows that for freedom America?

    Posted by Dave November 25, 09 12:07 AM
  1. I think it's disgusting that children are permitted to express their beliefs in school like this. These kids should memorize and regurgitate unquestioningly so they can grow up to be good citizens of our Republic--if they're allowed to express their individuality, then the country we know and love will be at risk. Outbursts of thoughtfulness and logic like this should absolutely be quashed.

    Posted by likeimeanit November 25, 09 03:58 AM
  1. It seems like he has thought this through. Rather than not saying it because he "just doesn't feel like it; he has a reason. It sounds like he is going about it in a relatively respectful way. You may not agree with him, but isn't that one of the things that makes this country great?

    Posted by PAUL rOSE November 25, 09 05:13 AM
  1. The pledge doesn't say that there IS "liberty, and justice for all". It provides a hope and goal for achieving these ends. The republic does stand for freedom, liberty, justice, and equality. I hope that we all do.

    We might not be there yet, but it's ignorant for this child to refuse the pledge because he or she is not happy with the present reality.

    Having said that, if the child wants to skip the pledge, it's his right. I don't want to live in a country that forces people to say things that they haven't yet figured out.

    Posted by Bob Chambers November 25, 09 07:18 AM
  1. My kid would be in big trouble if he or she told a teacher to "..jump off a bridge." Whatever politics one may have does not justify that. Such a comment makes the kid look like just another mouthy brat with twits for parents.

    Posted by Bob November 25, 09 08:02 AM
  1. Have him sit with his parents and log onto Amnesty International, Persecution.com, and other sites to see
    how others are treated around the world. My former students who were this "entitled" and cocky, well, after they travelled a bit, it was they who said that when the plane landed at LOGAN, they almost kissed the ground. Oh, one other thing, what about the thousands upon thousand who DIED for that Flag.

    Posted by Prof at Emerson November 25, 09 08:44 AM
  1. Notice how the people who have a problem with the child's politics are harping so much about what he said to the teacher? For four days a person in authority with immensely more power tried to quash his political speech. He is 10. Who really cares if he could have been a little nicer about it? Its not the point of this discussion. This is not newsworthy because he told the teacher to jump off a bridge. There are three teachers in my family--they've heard much worse.

    Also, I think it says a lot about the type of people who are so threatened by people who don't follow aimlessly. Wow, one child questions what the flag stands for. Scary--the Republic is coming to an end.

    Posted by MakeLoveNotWar November 25, 09 09:12 AM
  1. I wouldn't have been pleased if my child told a teacher to jump off a bridge, but otherwise, I think he sounds like an intelligent and thoughtful child. I would back him up 100%. If more adults thought about what the pledge means or had a real idea what is in our constitution, we would all be better off. The pledge is not sacred and there is too much meaningless symbolism and jingoism in this country.

    Posted by Mastermou November 25, 09 09:56 AM
  1. The teacher had no right to force him to say the pledge. She was acting illegally.

    We should teach our children to be respectful but expecting a 10 year old to have an intellectual argument with a teacher who is wrong and is apparently not listening to him is expecting too much.

    The teacher is an adult. She should have handled it better.

    But she was probably right to send him to the principal when she lost control of the classroom.

    Posted by Sarah November 25, 09 09:58 AM
  1. The kid has a point. I grew up in a neighborhood where I was reviled on a daily basis as a german, a russian, a jew, a communist and a Nazi. The neighborhood kids didn't know much about the world, but they knew that it was OK for a 14 year old to bash a 6 year old marginal person. Things got worse as we grew up; in middle school and high school childhood friends would turn nasty and hang out exclusively with their protestant or catholic youth groups, and some high school teachers and administrators were overtly racist and anti-semitic (I had to arrange a schedule conflict to get away from one such boorish and somewhat uneducated teacher). In elementary school, the kids who turned starry-eyed and recited the pledge too loudly were sometimes the ones who later became members of intolerant youth groups (this was the period when "under God" was added to the pledge). Some also subscribed to rather idiosyncratic cultural beliefs - that if your family drove a Chevrolet rather than, say a Ford, you were normal.Going back years later to that corner of Newton, Massachusetts, I was surprised to find the warmth and acceptance with which the black kids remembered me, and I was ashamed that during most of my childhood they had been invisible to me (the building of the turnpike subsequently removed most of their community). I guess being visibly persecuted made it easy for them to identify with me. Two decades later I found that my own children were exquisitely sensitive to the instances of unfairness, or just the blind cruelty, of other children directed against their own friends, so the world has changed. However, anyone who watches Fox News, or listens to rural radio stations in Maine or reads the comments submitted to Boston.com must be aware that there remain vast reservoirs of intolerance and discrimination in this country, and children are being raised in families where this is encouraged. What surprises me about the present news story is not that the child sees such unfairness, but that he has the strength to speak out at that age. For this we can be thankful.

    Posted by mike November 25, 09 09:59 AM
  1. I never cease to be amazed at this notion of respect for the "Flag". Here is a young boy who at the age of Ten has a better grasp of what this country should stand for than most of the adults posting on this blog yet he is relentlessly criticized for not showing respect for the flag. If people showed as much respect for their fellow human beings as they supposedly do for the flag, this country and world would be a better place.

    Posted by GetYourPrioritiesStraight November 25, 09 10:01 AM
  1. Please, this is nuts! The child has a right to NOT pledge the alligiance but he does NOT have the right to disrupt the classroom and needs to be respectful to those around him. As a non-catholic that went to a catholic school, I stood for the prayers, attended mass and said my own prayer to myself. I would NEVER think of disrespecting others in what they believe.
    He is a brat that has been influenced by his parents, this IS disrespectful to the teacher and fellow sudents let alone the military and what they are doing for our safety, our country and him!.

    Posted by gail November 25, 09 10:58 AM
  1. His opinion is just as valid as yours and he is right to peacefully protest something he believes in. At least he has not been effectively brainwashed and has exercised his ability to think freely. Isn't that what freedom is about.

    It's not disrespectful for him to speak up. He's using his mind, which is more than most adults can say. Kids have a clearer view on things when they haven't been steeped in societal expectations for 20-40 years.

    I would be incredibly proud if I were his parent.

    Posted by canadian November 25, 09 12:03 PM
  1. What disruption? I got that he simply refused to recite it. I saw the kid on TV, and he gives the vibe of a kid who has never not been the smartest person in a room. It happens, and by 4th grade it can be frustrating. He'll grow out of that.

    I no longer recite the pledge, especially since I read The Childen's Story. I stand silently out of respect for those around me. (On the other hand, I don't applaud the national anthem, certainly not before it's over. That would also be disrespectful.) Even as a kid I wondered why I was pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth, and wondered what would happen if they ever added another star. But this was the late 70s, and by high school we weren't doing that anyway. Besides, if the pledge a child made the day before doesn't still hold, why bother doing it again if it's not going to be meaningful. Which is the larger point - some people don't like mouthing meaningless words; other people think it's the group prayer which is what's important.

    Posted by David Chesler November 25, 09 12:09 PM
  1. our kids now and days are much more involved in the world. What happened to teaching your child about the BIBLE and that GOD said be wise, and not to get caught up in worldly things. I think it would be best to explain these different topics to your child. Also he's 10-years old, shouldn't he be making a Christmas list or something? Parents be careful what you say around your kids.

    Posted by Gemini November 25, 09 01:24 PM
  1. This kid needs a good boot in the a**. So do his parents.

    Posted by GeorgeL November 25, 09 01:47 PM
  1. I think you should ask the question of how many people who are out of school more than five years to recite the pledge or what it means. Like most things in school we drone them every day without giving a second thought to what we are saying

    Posted by Donal November 25, 09 01:54 PM
  1. Where was the disruption? By staying silent and sitting that is somehow disrespectful and disruptive? What was disruptive was the teacher challenging him each day about his dissent. This country was founded on dissent--not a bunch of blind followers--whether it was the English in 1776 or school children in 2009. He is like the revolutionaries who thought for themselves and supported independance and freedom. I guess you haters think that Rosa Parks was disruptive too.

    Typical of #62--for the Christians to be bringing up God and Christmas lists. You should be careful about what YOU say around your children.


    Posted by MakeLoveNotWar November 25, 09 02:03 PM
  1. How is not reciting the pledge a disruption? Wouldn't the kids who make a big deal about him not reciting the pledge be the distraction?
    This child has stood up for what he believes in, and taken a big risk in stepping outside the box, and not conforming with the rest of the students. He should be praised for being an individual, not scolded for being different.

    Posted by Adam November 25, 09 03:40 PM
  1. some people need to take an attitude check. This is straight up ingratitude. Yes its nationalistic, thats the point.

    Posted by Tom November 26, 09 02:50 AM
  1. To everyone who thinks it's the parents, It's a possibility for sure- but I was VERY aware of my country when I was 10... So I dont doubt that this kid did this on his own. And even if he didn't- Well, I'll put it this way: Who the f*** are these people to say its not okay to teach their kid that? Probably the same a-holes who brainwash their kids into hateful religions. SAME THING. But because you don't like what they have to say all of a sudden they're wrong and thus terrible people....
    That's what america is founded on buddy, the inalienable right to do and say just about whatever you freaking want. Deal with it- If you don't like our country, you can GTFO.

    Posted by Jay's Moniker November 27, 09 02:36 PM
  1. This kid is a better human being at 10 than most people will ever hope to be. We should be commending him instead of condemning him.

    Posted by Lorelai Gilmore November 28, 09 08:23 PM
  1. i agree just because you th ink you should don't think about do it and say whats in your head your heart. because i think no matter who it is you marry at long as you love them and will follow your vole it's okay.

    Posted by Princess Knox November 29, 09 06:05 PM
  1. *Agrees with 68 because of the sheer fact that everyone is using the ideal idea of the country against him when the country protects his right to not say the pledge.*

    Posted by AninnyMouse November 29, 09 06:40 PM
  1. Regardless if he came up with this on his own OR if his parents taught him this....This is awesome!!! This is how everyone should think. If you think it is okay to treat a gay person as a second class citizen, then you would be wrong. We have freedom of religion which includes freedom from religion, and we should have the freedom to marry. Marriage is human right, not a heterosexual prevliage. Regardless Gay marriage will be passed! The younger generation will make sure of it!

    Posted by John December 9, 09 02:58 PM
  1. What if Will had said "With all due respect, ma'am, I have a constitutional right to remain silent and seated and I choose to exercise that right. If you wish to continue this conversation I suggest we do so in the presence of the principal, my parents, whatever legal representation they retain on my behalf. Do you have any questions?"

    Posted by Trying to Think Through the Issue December 10, 09 04:16 AM
  1. I also do not participate in the pledge for this reason. I`m fifteen, and have decided that when everyone is awarded the same justices and liberties, I will join in on the pledge. In school today, however, I was made to stand for the pledge, even though I disagree with it morally. The teacher that made me say it literally shouted at me, and while the pledge was going on shouted the words at me, particularly the part about God and liberty.

    Afterwards, he shouted at me about my disrespectful behavior towards America.

    It`s always fun when adults tell you to form your own opinions on subjects and to educate yourself, but when your morals or thoughts disagree with their own, you`re suddenly in the wrong.

    Posted by Mollie September 27, 13 07:44 PM
 
74 comments so far...
  1. I think he's a smart kid. We teach kids to share, use their words, never hit or use violence and to be kind to everyone. Then you look/read the news and what are the "adults" doing? Exactly what we say not to do!
    Hmmm....

    Posted by Laurie November 23, 09 08:49 PM
  1. Your child has the ability to choose because of our pledge. Teach your kid respect!

    Posted by Bruce Avitabile November 23, 09 11:59 PM
  1. With all due respect you can jump of a bridge...I would be irate if my child said this to a teacher.

    While I certainly am upset and disheartened by the direction of the country, it is still a pretty amazing place to live. Our children could be born in Iraq where they worry about being bombed, in Afghanistan where the girls can't go to school, in many of the countries in Africa where the corrupt government officials take all of the aid and the citizens starve to death.

    So I would encourage my kids to fight for health insurance for all, marriage for same sex couples, and many other actions that would make this a better country. I would not, however, appreciate them refusing to say the pledge of allegiance and I would be very upset if they told a teacher to jump off a bridge.

    Posted by Jayne November 24, 09 09:03 AM
  1. "Your child has the ability to choose because of our pledge. Teach your kid respect!"

    The pledge has nothing to do with it! He has the right to choose because of the US Constitution. He is not disrespecting that or anyone else's right to say the pledge. He got his parents' permission (and they should have informed the school and the substitute teacher about his being excused from saying the pledge). He should not have told the sub to jump off a bridge, but he did get reprimanded for that.

    As an adult, I don't remember any time in my life other than school when it was necessary to say this pledge. Not quite sure why they teach it if there's no point in your life you actually need to use it... Not like the national anthem.

    I think he's a brave kid, especially since he's become the target of other (intolerant) children calling him horrible names.

    Posted by Mom2Be November 24, 09 09:59 AM
  1. Children deserve the freedom to influence their environment as much as any adult. The size of the choices that they face should be based on their ability to comprehend and manage the situation. By doing the research and thinking about the issue, this boy has shown that he is capable of making this decision and is willing to accept the consequences of his actions.

    Posted by whoisdagney November 24, 09 10:02 AM
  1. You pledge allegiance in order to take responsibility to help the US become a better place. If you refuse to pledge allegiance, you are abdicating your civic responsibilities and should be treated accordingly, which may include expulsion. That should come as no surprise as a result.

    Posted by Phred November 24, 09 10:22 AM
  1. Avitabile, well said! appreciate what we do have and work on what we need to have or improve, by the way..this is most certainly the opinion of the parents of the boy, a 10 yr old is definitely influenced on what he hears at home, shame on them for not teaching him objectivity.

    Posted by rick November 24, 09 10:29 AM
  1. Telling a teacher to jump off a bridge after 4 days of being harrassed by him or her tells me that this kid not only has a brain ("I looked at the end and it said 'with liberty and justice for all.' And there really isn't liberty and justice for all") but patience as well.

    Ya know, the Hitler Youth were forced to recite their pledges of allegiance, too. That turned out pretty well.

    Posted by Damian November 24, 09 10:31 AM
  1. If it was my child, I would be OK with him refusing to say the pledge, but not telling the teacher to jump off of a bridge. In my mind, that's where he crossed the line. I think that if it's truly that important to him, he and his parents should have gone to the principal proactively. I think he was being a bit of a snot for refusing to even stand - that was not an unreasonable request. The key, to me, is that you disagree respectfully. It's respectful to stand while the pledge is being recited or while the national anthem is being played.

    Honestly, I think it's pretty stupid that we pledge allegiance to a piece of fabric. The 'republic for which it stands'? Sure. The flag? Not so much.

    Posted by akmom November 24, 09 10:32 AM
  1. Oh, please, you know it's coming from the parents.

    Posted by ME November 24, 09 10:39 AM
  1. I hope this kid runs for office one day - WOW - at 10 (when peer pressure is starting to really come in to play), having the courage of his convictions. I am SO proud of him. He is learning that sometimes it is hard to be true to oneself - particularly in the face of those who reportedly know better.....but each time he takes a stand, he is sending out the true message of what the USA stands for!!!! God bless him & his future!!!!!

    Posted by Jakesaunt November 24, 09 10:59 AM
  1. This boy is America's future! He epitomizes everything we SHOULD stand for. Bravo!

    Posted by Jen November 24, 09 11:09 AM
  1. The thing is, Bruce, this child DOES respect the pledge. BECAUSE he respects it he's choosing not to say it because he feels it isn't true in our current times. He has every right to refuse saying the pledge.

    Posted by pledge this November 24, 09 11:11 AM
  1. Absolutely, children have the freedom to peacefully protest. Clearly, this child is a critical thinker and that's a trait to be commended. I don't know that I fully agree with his form of protest as a method to bring his chosen cause to light, but he's not disrupting anything by not saying the pledge. After all, the Jehova's Witness children in my elementary school never said it either due to religious reasons and it didn't disrupt anything whatsoever in our daily routine.

    I don't, however, agree with him telling his teacher to jump off a bridge (even with due respect, because I use that phrase a lot at work and we all know that it means, "STFU. You're an idiot so let me set the record straight and bump you forward in that line for your much needed rectal-craniotomy."). While I probably would have had to go to another room to laugh after being told what he said if I was his mom, I would still have to have given him a much needed lesson in diplomacy.

    Posted by phe November 24, 09 11:15 AM
  1. While I think he was, in fact, disrespectful to the substitute teacher (jump off a bridge), I applaud him for sticking to his principles. And, especially being only 10 years old, I think it is quite remarkable that he is so aware of his words and actions. I wish there were more children like him, or at least more that thought about the meaning by their words.

    Posted by kazanjig November 24, 09 11:21 AM
  1. good for him! I will never chastise my child for speaking his mind and sticking to his principles- which may I add include NOT saying the pledge either because it has certain words in it he doesnt believe in or as he put it' don't belong in my school' He is 12..

    Posted by Dana November 24, 09 11:38 AM
  1. Does the kid work for the ACLU? The parents must be athiests. Someone should call child services on them.

    Posted by LeBron November 24, 09 11:54 AM
  1. He has the right not to recite the pledge and others have the right to recite the pledge as long as neither side interferes with the other's rights there should be no issue

    Posted by Robin D. November 24, 09 12:11 PM
  1. He should NEVER had told an elder to "jump off a bridge." There are many, many respectful ways to express your opinion. That having been said, unfortunately there is not liberty and justice for all, however, he should be grateful that he is an American and that he can go to a heated home with electricity and running water, and watch, most likely HD TV on a widescreen. He should pledge his allegiance to this country for providing him that--comforts that we all take for granted.

    Posted by Babs November 24, 09 12:27 PM
  1. he is only 10 years old? I'm thinking he may have been coached re:
    '"I looked at the end and it said 'with liberty and justice for all.' And there really isn't liberty and justice for all," "Gays and lesbians can't marry. There's still a lot of racism and sexism in the world."

    Either that or he is very bright for his age!

    Posted by isitfridayyet November 24, 09 01:19 PM
  1. Babs- His country doesn't provide those comforts, his parents do.

    He is a smart child who is forming his convictions and should be commended and supported for peacefully sticking by them. Yes, he crossed the line with the "jump off a bridge" and he should be reprimanded for that. Otherwise, he has the same rights that both you and I do: to chose.

    Posted by tlf1211 November 24, 09 01:26 PM
  1. The commentary from the readers of The Arkansas Times is pretty much what's wrong with 51% of America. I hate to think about what those readers are teaching their children.

    This kid is amazing. I wish I had given The Pledge that much thought when I was in school. If I had, maybe I wouldn't have been a grade school robot.

    Posted by Dave November 24, 09 01:26 PM
  1. This is not necessarily "coming from the parents." Not that I ever refused to say the pledge at age 10, but I also could think for myself and speak out against things I disagreed with when I was 10. Some children develop intellectually earlier than others and there are kids like this boy who are very thoughtful and sharp at a young age. I too disagree with telling the teacher to jump off a bridge but commend him for standing up for his principles, even in taking an unpopular stance in front of his peers.

    Posted by Mike November 24, 09 01:27 PM
  1. First, let's be clear that it is not civil disobedience if you aren't breaking any laws.

    Second, we will believe anything you pro-Pledgers have to say about the Pledge is serious when we see you out pledging the flag every day - as you would force little kids to do. If you believe in government coercion, you should be the one's to move to another country where they don't have freedom.

    How soon we forget that Jehovah's Witnesses in Nazi Germany were among the first to be persecuted for refusing to stand during the Sieg Heil salute, which so closely resembles our Pledge of Allegiance. Forcing this upon our citizens, and especially our children, crosses a line that is un-American. And when you consider this is mostly elementary school age kids, it amounts to little more than bullying. (The substitute was a simple bully and by every measure had earned Will's disrespect.)

    Every American should understand that there is more to the Supreme Court ruling that applies here than just declaring it unconstitutional to force kids to stand for the Pledge. The majority opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, written by Justice Robert Jackson in 1943, became one of the great statements in American constitutional law and history.

    "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."

    The true legacy of Barnette is less its jurisprudence than its defense of the principles of freedom. Justice Jackson continued, "Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard."

    I would ask you to stop and think for a minute what kind of patriot you, yourself, are by where you stand on this basic principal we call freedom.

    --
    More at: http://members.cox.net/patriotismforall/

    Posted by Hifi November 24, 09 01:27 PM
  1. I don't think anyone should be required to recite a pledge of allegiance to anything.

    I commend this child on his thinking, but believe that the first time the teacher questioned his refusal, his parents should have contacted the school to discuss the matter. He certainly should not have told the teacher to jump in a lake.

    Posted by bgal November 24, 09 01:46 PM
  1. Justice?

    Well, I guess when I see things like OJ Simpson get away with murder, I should just disrespect the flag, right. According to such logic, I should take everything I think is unfair and stomp my little feet, fold my arms and pay no respect for the great country I live in.

    How many times to we as people fight for what we feel is injust. I'm not so sure that marriage for gays is a freedom or injustice question. There are already so many ways to tangle our lives with another legally that it is almost unnecessary. Why marriage?

    There is a complete economic difference between heterosexuals and homosexual relationships due to the fact that one union can procreate and the other cannot. I would fight for the right to marry any gay couple who adopts a child because in this case (and only this case) would they be equal as a union.

    While many will not agree with the premise that for the sake of parents and their children within the confines of marriage (the step we take to protect and define family) we provide social benefits for survivorship it is a misstep (and waste of limited resources) to provide such benefits for people who use sexuality and family as a means to benefit without such sacrifice.

    Shame on this kid for making a mockery of the allegiance to our country. He should really think about all those who have died for the sake of freedom and hope for justice. We are a country of people and because of this we make mistakes. Our freedoms (we see eroding every day) are vital and worthy of allegiance.

    Should every white person not say the pledge because OJ was acquitted of murder as black people everywhere rejoiced as though it were a badge of honor. I think not. That was blind, vengeful form of justice that is practiced every day. We're not perfect, but we are perhaps as good as it gets anywhere. Look at the Duke Lacrosse team being targeted by black leaders and they were innocent! No apologies, no nothing from them.

    No worries, soon enough this kid will be subject to the very injustices served up in third world countries and marxist havens. He'll have no liberty and no where here to make the most of his life as he wishes - it will all be taken and directed for him as the liberty-be-damN*ed forces continue to overtake this country.

    Posted by Leave US Please November 24, 09 01:57 PM
  1. If this was my child, I would be ok with not reciting the Pledge but I would NOT be ok with the disrespectful comment towards an adult. Also, I would explain to my child that it would be a good idea to stand up and respect the flag but still be true to his decision to not recite the Pledge. Good for you Will for standing up for what you believe in.

    Posted by Alexis November 24, 09 02:00 PM
  1. #6 is correct. The teacher should not have pressured him, but should have explained to the class and this boy that the Pledge is aspirational. The US is not perfect--that's impossible. However, our ideals lead us to continually improve and strive for a better country. Our history has shown that. That is why so many happily celebrate this coming Thursday.

    Also, this is definitely coming from the parents. It is their right to indoctrinate their son as they wish, but we should not be deluded into believing he did this all on his own.

    Posted by done November 24, 09 02:02 PM
  1. People who say "Love it or Leave it" are what's wrong with the country. If humans never changed their beliefs or ideologies, we'd still be building fires in huts. Society makes progress but there needs to be people who initiate the debate, people who make the debate a real issue and people who actually follow through and make the step forward. Imagine if you told a white, land owning man in 1800 that one day, the decedents of his slaves would be able to vote. How would he react?

    I realize that this kid is hardly initiating the gay marriage debate but he is getting people to talk about it, and the more people talk about it the more people will realize that it doesn't affect anyone who isn't gay. Refusing the pledge may not be the most appropriate action but what else can a 12 year old do to make national headlines?

    Posted by mtrem225 November 24, 09 02:03 PM
  1. Why is this news, exactly?

    And what 10 year old independently arrives at the conclusion that fellow citizens are being denied liberty? This kid was coached.

    I've never met a child that age who cared about such things. Hell, most adults don't care all that much.

    Posted by Noah November 24, 09 02:05 PM
  1. He is a smart child with his own feelings, thoughts and values. At some point you do teach your children to be themselves and this kid is just being himself and sharing his feelings. He is just trying to be himself and show his strong beliefs. He did say anything disrespecful accept telling his teacher to "jump off a bridge". But other than that, he is just exercising his rights and I think he is a brave little kid. I agree with Jayne that this is a great place to live and we are lucky to be here but this little boy just feels that things could be better and he is just trying to make a change. I give him credit for that.

    Posted by Laura November 24, 09 02:08 PM
  1. I agree wholeheartedly with akmom. If the parents wanted to teach this boy how to stay firm in his convictions but act in a civilized and respectful manner, they should have gone to the principal and chatted proactively. But that wouldn't have resulted in a news story, now, would it? I have a feeling that this boy is regurgitating what he has heard at home. Too bad the parents have used this young boy for their own agenda instead of turning this into a "teachable moment."

    Posted by JKR November 24, 09 02:52 PM
  1. I think it's more important to stand by your word, or don't stand at all, which is basically what he did - or didn't. He understands and respects the principle behind the flag, which is more important that talking to a non-living symbol with words that you don't believe.

    In all flag discussions, how many really consider the word "indivisible" as they tell other U.S. citizens to leave the country because of a disagreement in what they believe this country represents.

    We should not be blindly pledging allegiance to anything, although it may be reasonable to publicly support the principles by which this country was founded.

    While the kid's views may echo the parents', it still takes an understanding to be able to explain the position. So while I take points off for not teaching the kid to be respectful to an authority figure (one can disagree without being disrespectful), I give credit to the family for teaching civics to their kid, and explaining the real principles behind our country.

    Posted by craftsman November 24, 09 02:53 PM
  1. Poor kid, his parents obviously use him to manifest their views and get into newspaper. Lame. And to all of you praising the kid - you really don't see it?? You think it's the kid? Wow.

    Posted by Spicegirl November 24, 09 02:57 PM
  1. I think the disrespect he showed the teacher is deplorable, but the way he's decided to stay true to his beliefs by not pledging is fine, even admirable. Sure, he was probably influenced by his parents' ideals and by the people in his life. But what kid isn't?

    I'm surprised that no one has commented about the fact that the pledge was written by a minister who was kicked out of his church for being a socialist. How is it liberal, unpatriotic, or undemocratic to REFUSE to pledge to a socialist idea?

    Also surprised at the commenter who said the kid's parents must be Athiests. "Under God" was added to the pledge 62 years after it was written. The pledge has nothing to do with religion.

    Posted by Maya November 24, 09 03:25 PM
  1. "The substitute teacher asked him to stand; he respectfully refused. This went on for four days, until the teacher got angry with him..."

    Should he have told her to jump off a bridge? No, probably not. But I'm tired of reading how "deplorable" it is what he did, without anyone even questioning what the teacher did. Read the story. He "respectfully" refused to stand. His substitute teacher after 4 days "got angry with him." Frankly, it sounds like the teacher may have deserved it! He shouldn't disrespect his teacher. But the teacher has to show respect as well.

    Good for him. Its nice to see a kid actually think about what he's saying instead of just blinding repeating.

    It's not disrespecting the country. I think that standing up for what he believes in (respectfully) is a better way to honor those who helped provide those rights than by just blindly regurgitating a pledge without thinking.

    Posted by justleftma November 24, 09 03:52 PM
  1. If this kid is refusing to stand until everyone has equal rights he better get a comfy chair, its gonna be a heck of a wait! When there is still someone like Ray commenting as he did in the Arkansas Times, we are still such a long way off.

    And while he's waiting, his parents should teach him some manners.

    Posted by sandra November 24, 09 04:27 PM
  1. A child with an unpopular point of view has been "coached" and "indoctrinated" by his parents, but a child with a mainstream opinion comes to it on his or her own?

    Posted by Regina November 24, 09 04:59 PM
  1. I don't understand the vast majority of "freedom of speech" hypocrites out there. The kid didn't say anything un-American and he didn't interfere with anyone's rights. He's practicing his freedom of speech and good for him for being so brave about it, standing up for what you believe in is what America is all about people!! Come on! How dare so many people criticize such a brave kid.

    Posted by TonyT November 24, 09 06:20 PM
  1. For the pro-Pledgers, are you saying that a 10-year-old lacks the ability to think for himself? Are you saying that children educated in the system are unable to form thoughts and opinions on the current situations occuring within our own home turf?

    I applaud this child and commend him for standing up for an idea that he believes in. Isn't that what this country is? It was an idea that people who were persecuted for their beliefs had... an idea for a better tomorrow. So this child, among many others in this country, have an idea for what a better tomorrow means, and now... you as an adult who talks out of the both sides of your mouth when it comes to tolerance, acceptance, respect, and understanding refuse to show a person (age doesn't matter) the same courtesy you expect us to show you?

    I don't think so, buddy. I want to shake this child's hand. A lot of people don't pledge to the flag because of religious belief, but this child just doesn't believe this country is practicing what it preaches. Amen, Will!

    I know I had my own beliefs at his age, and no one could deter me from them. He is his own person, and shame on you guys for not thinking he could form his own beliefs.

    Posted by Alexandra November 24, 09 07:21 PM
  1. I wasn't going to comment until I got to the end. I hope justleftma realizes that the substitute teacher was probably tired of having her/his directions ignored by a 10 year old child. also, if one child refuses, and nothing happens, then everyone will decide to act up. Then the teacher will have nho control. I agree with the person who posted that after the first day, the parents shoud have approached the principal and discussed their position. Also, anyone who thinks it is okay for any child to tell his/her teacher to jump off a bridge needs to examine why he/she is so hostile towards teachers or other symbols of authority. As a veteran and as a teacher, I am disgusted by this behavior. We are very fortunate to live with the freedoms we have, and if you think we don't have it so good, look at other countries.

    Posted by Patches02 November 24, 09 10:17 PM
  1. For all the people who claim that the child was coached--are you telling me that all the other kids who do recite the pledge are not coached? For all the people with a problem with this child--they clearly are imparting certain messages to their children. The only difference is a disagreement. There is nothing wrong with his parents--and it is not shocking for people to be calling them atheists--as if your religious beliefs were somehow better than those with a different view point. I think he should be commended for not following along like a sheep like many other people, children and adults alike. He should be commended for thinking about what he was asked to do blindly every day.

    Posted by MakeLoveNotWar November 24, 09 11:13 PM
  1. I think that he should be forced to say the pledge, just to show him how free he really is here.

    Posted by M_S November 24, 09 11:14 PM
  1. This young man is amazing. He has every right not to say the pledge, and I'm unhappy as an adult that I never refused to say it. To me, it represents indoctrination. If someone else wants to say it, go ahead. But it's not required.

    Will Phillips engaged in peaceful and respectful protest, and he lost his patience with the substitute (who should have figured out, by the end of the week, that the pledge is not required). What he said was inappropriate, and should not have gone unnoticed or unpunished.

    But good for him for standing up (or, sitting down) for what he believes in. If you're worried about kids being disrespectful, then go do something about the classmates who harassed him.

    Posted by sabend November 24, 09 11:17 PM
  1. To all those who think the kid is being "indoctrinated" or "coached" by his parents - the kid is probably more intelligent than half of you all. Did you listen to his interview on CNN? He clearly has the ability to form and articulate his opinion without the help of his parents.

    But it's true - his view have been influenced by his parents, just as everyone has been influenced by their parents. The fortunate thing is his parents taught him to be open minded, accepting, and rational instead of close minded and retarded.

    Posted by Tim November 24, 09 11:31 PM
  1. People that don't believe these are his own thoughts are clearly not involved with any exceptionally intelligent children. I watched his interview on CNN and this boy is clearly above average intelligence and I have no doubt that those thoughts are his. My son is seven and has asked about gay marriage and I never hesitate to tell him that it is not legal in this country for gay people to marry. It's not a huge leap for a rational child to look at that and say, "That's not really right, is it?" or at a minimum, "Why not?" Now, if you're of a religious persuasion you'll spew some stuff about it being against G-d's law but hopefully more and more people are saying, "That's a good question."

    I applaud this kid for standing up for his beliefs. The jumping off a bridge comment was unacceptable in my mind and my child would be reprimanded for that but never for not saying the pledge. As an adult, when I am at his school I do not participate in the pledge and he does not say, "under G-d". I'd like for him to not say it at all but I want him to come to that decision on his own and not push it on him.

    Posted by JennM November 24, 09 11:39 PM
  1. Advocating for free speech and equal rights are laudable and American.
    Of course a 10 year-old can have an opinion and a stance (at 10, I was trying to convert my friends and teachers to Evangelical Christianity - it was the sixties and no one was coaching me - not even my mainstream Presbyterian parents). The issue here is one of informed consent. In a homophobic society, should a 10 year old be "allowed" to advocate for gay marriage? He can have an opinion, but he can't accurately forecast the duration and impact of taking that stance publicly at his age. 10 year olds aren't that cognitively developed. That's why he's got 8 years of school ahead of him. At some point, peer relationships are going to matter to him more than activism. The ****** label won't serve him, and most school systems do a poor job of protecting kids from homophobic harassment. It's up to adults to create a world where social justice and equality are the norm. It's also up to adults to protect kids. Kids want all sorts of things they shouldn't have - that's why we have age of majority statutes. 10 year old equality activists are far more vulnerable than
    adult activists. They can be bullied for their opinions; adults can protect themselves. In my opinion, as a gay man, this boy should not be presented as any kind of activist. He should be allowed to sit out the Pledge - like we hippy wannabes did in the 70's. The teacher overreacted. Negative reinforcement (ignoring his behavior) would have worked better.

    Posted by Uhclem November 24, 09 11:44 PM
  1. #26- It pretty incredible that this person took this much time to write such a lengthy and blatantly uninformed response. Talk to a gay person about what marriage means to them before you make this inferences. And if you looking for economic reasons to back gay marriage: gays have a higher median income than straight people. Do your research. Gays make more money so they can spend more on weddings and family vacations. I don't care what anyone says. Everyone has the right to have their relationship recognized in the eyes of the government and share in all the same benefits, regardless of ability to procreate. PS, adopting is illegal for a gay couple in Arkansas, hows that for freedom America?

    Posted by Dave November 25, 09 12:07 AM
  1. I think it's disgusting that children are permitted to express their beliefs in school like this. These kids should memorize and regurgitate unquestioningly so they can grow up to be good citizens of our Republic--if they're allowed to express their individuality, then the country we know and love will be at risk. Outbursts of thoughtfulness and logic like this should absolutely be quashed.

    Posted by likeimeanit November 25, 09 03:58 AM
  1. It seems like he has thought this through. Rather than not saying it because he "just doesn't feel like it; he has a reason. It sounds like he is going about it in a relatively respectful way. You may not agree with him, but isn't that one of the things that makes this country great?

    Posted by PAUL rOSE November 25, 09 05:13 AM
  1. The pledge doesn't say that there IS "liberty, and justice for all". It provides a hope and goal for achieving these ends. The republic does stand for freedom, liberty, justice, and equality. I hope that we all do.

    We might not be there yet, but it's ignorant for this child to refuse the pledge because he or she is not happy with the present reality.

    Having said that, if the child wants to skip the pledge, it's his right. I don't want to live in a country that forces people to say things that they haven't yet figured out.

    Posted by Bob Chambers November 25, 09 07:18 AM
  1. My kid would be in big trouble if he or she told a teacher to "..jump off a bridge." Whatever politics one may have does not justify that. Such a comment makes the kid look like just another mouthy brat with twits for parents.

    Posted by Bob November 25, 09 08:02 AM
  1. Have him sit with his parents and log onto Amnesty International, Persecution.com, and other sites to see
    how others are treated around the world. My former students who were this "entitled" and cocky, well, after they travelled a bit, it was they who said that when the plane landed at LOGAN, they almost kissed the ground. Oh, one other thing, what about the thousands upon thousand who DIED for that Flag.

    Posted by Prof at Emerson November 25, 09 08:44 AM
  1. Notice how the people who have a problem with the child's politics are harping so much about what he said to the teacher? For four days a person in authority with immensely more power tried to quash his political speech. He is 10. Who really cares if he could have been a little nicer about it? Its not the point of this discussion. This is not newsworthy because he told the teacher to jump off a bridge. There are three teachers in my family--they've heard much worse.

    Also, I think it says a lot about the type of people who are so threatened by people who don't follow aimlessly. Wow, one child questions what the flag stands for. Scary--the Republic is coming to an end.

    Posted by MakeLoveNotWar November 25, 09 09:12 AM
  1. I wouldn't have been pleased if my child told a teacher to jump off a bridge, but otherwise, I think he sounds like an intelligent and thoughtful child. I would back him up 100%. If more adults thought about what the pledge means or had a real idea what is in our constitution, we would all be better off. The pledge is not sacred and there is too much meaningless symbolism and jingoism in this country.

    Posted by Mastermou November 25, 09 09:56 AM
  1. The teacher had no right to force him to say the pledge. She was acting illegally.

    We should teach our children to be respectful but expecting a 10 year old to have an intellectual argument with a teacher who is wrong and is apparently not listening to him is expecting too much.

    The teacher is an adult. She should have handled it better.

    But she was probably right to send him to the principal when she lost control of the classroom.

    Posted by Sarah November 25, 09 09:58 AM
  1. The kid has a point. I grew up in a neighborhood where I was reviled on a daily basis as a german, a russian, a jew, a communist and a Nazi. The neighborhood kids didn't know much about the world, but they knew that it was OK for a 14 year old to bash a 6 year old marginal person. Things got worse as we grew up; in middle school and high school childhood friends would turn nasty and hang out exclusively with their protestant or catholic youth groups, and some high school teachers and administrators were overtly racist and anti-semitic (I had to arrange a schedule conflict to get away from one such boorish and somewhat uneducated teacher). In elementary school, the kids who turned starry-eyed and recited the pledge too loudly were sometimes the ones who later became members of intolerant youth groups (this was the period when "under God" was added to the pledge). Some also subscribed to rather idiosyncratic cultural beliefs - that if your family drove a Chevrolet rather than, say a Ford, you were normal.Going back years later to that corner of Newton, Massachusetts, I was surprised to find the warmth and acceptance with which the black kids remembered me, and I was ashamed that during most of my childhood they had been invisible to me (the building of the turnpike subsequently removed most of their community). I guess being visibly persecuted made it easy for them to identify with me. Two decades later I found that my own children were exquisitely sensitive to the instances of unfairness, or just the blind cruelty, of other children directed against their own friends, so the world has changed. However, anyone who watches Fox News, or listens to rural radio stations in Maine or reads the comments submitted to Boston.com must be aware that there remain vast reservoirs of intolerance and discrimination in this country, and children are being raised in families where this is encouraged. What surprises me about the present news story is not that the child sees such unfairness, but that he has the strength to speak out at that age. For this we can be thankful.

    Posted by mike November 25, 09 09:59 AM
  1. I never cease to be amazed at this notion of respect for the "Flag". Here is a young boy who at the age of Ten has a better grasp of what this country should stand for than most of the adults posting on this blog yet he is relentlessly criticized for not showing respect for the flag. If people showed as much respect for their fellow human beings as they supposedly do for the flag, this country and world would be a better place.

    Posted by GetYourPrioritiesStraight November 25, 09 10:01 AM
  1. Please, this is nuts! The child has a right to NOT pledge the alligiance but he does NOT have the right to disrupt the classroom and needs to be respectful to those around him. As a non-catholic that went to a catholic school, I stood for the prayers, attended mass and said my own prayer to myself. I would NEVER think of disrespecting others in what they believe.
    He is a brat that has been influenced by his parents, this IS disrespectful to the teacher and fellow sudents let alone the military and what they are doing for our safety, our country and him!.

    Posted by gail November 25, 09 10:58 AM
  1. His opinion is just as valid as yours and he is right to peacefully protest something he believes in. At least he has not been effectively brainwashed and has exercised his ability to think freely. Isn't that what freedom is about.

    It's not disrespectful for him to speak up. He's using his mind, which is more than most adults can say. Kids have a clearer view on things when they haven't been steeped in societal expectations for 20-40 years.

    I would be incredibly proud if I were his parent.

    Posted by canadian November 25, 09 12:03 PM
  1. What disruption? I got that he simply refused to recite it. I saw the kid on TV, and he gives the vibe of a kid who has never not been the smartest person in a room. It happens, and by 4th grade it can be frustrating. He'll grow out of that.

    I no longer recite the pledge, especially since I read The Childen's Story. I stand silently out of respect for those around me. (On the other hand, I don't applaud the national anthem, certainly not before it's over. That would also be disrespectful.) Even as a kid I wondered why I was pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth, and wondered what would happen if they ever added another star. But this was the late 70s, and by high school we weren't doing that anyway. Besides, if the pledge a child made the day before doesn't still hold, why bother doing it again if it's not going to be meaningful. Which is the larger point - some people don't like mouthing meaningless words; other people think it's the group prayer which is what's important.

    Posted by David Chesler November 25, 09 12:09 PM
  1. our kids now and days are much more involved in the world. What happened to teaching your child about the BIBLE and that GOD said be wise, and not to get caught up in worldly things. I think it would be best to explain these different topics to your child. Also he's 10-years old, shouldn't he be making a Christmas list or something? Parents be careful what you say around your kids.

    Posted by Gemini November 25, 09 01:24 PM
  1. This kid needs a good boot in the a**. So do his parents.

    Posted by GeorgeL November 25, 09 01:47 PM
  1. I think you should ask the question of how many people who are out of school more than five years to recite the pledge or what it means. Like most things in school we drone them every day without giving a second thought to what we are saying

    Posted by Donal November 25, 09 01:54 PM
  1. Where was the disruption? By staying silent and sitting that is somehow disrespectful and disruptive? What was disruptive was the teacher challenging him each day about his dissent. This country was founded on dissent--not a bunch of blind followers--whether it was the English in 1776 or school children in 2009. He is like the revolutionaries who thought for themselves and supported independance and freedom. I guess you haters think that Rosa Parks was disruptive too.

    Typical of #62--for the Christians to be bringing up God and Christmas lists. You should be careful about what YOU say around your children.


    Posted by MakeLoveNotWar November 25, 09 02:03 PM
  1. How is not reciting the pledge a disruption? Wouldn't the kids who make a big deal about him not reciting the pledge be the distraction?
    This child has stood up for what he believes in, and taken a big risk in stepping outside the box, and not conforming with the rest of the students. He should be praised for being an individual, not scolded for being different.

    Posted by Adam November 25, 09 03:40 PM
  1. some people need to take an attitude check. This is straight up ingratitude. Yes its nationalistic, thats the point.

    Posted by Tom November 26, 09 02:50 AM
  1. To everyone who thinks it's the parents, It's a possibility for sure- but I was VERY aware of my country when I was 10... So I dont doubt that this kid did this on his own. And even if he didn't- Well, I'll put it this way: Who the f*** are these people to say its not okay to teach their kid that? Probably the same a-holes who brainwash their kids into hateful religions. SAME THING. But because you don't like what they have to say all of a sudden they're wrong and thus terrible people....
    That's what america is founded on buddy, the inalienable right to do and say just about whatever you freaking want. Deal with it- If you don't like our country, you can GTFO.

    Posted by Jay's Moniker November 27, 09 02:36 PM
  1. This kid is a better human being at 10 than most people will ever hope to be. We should be commending him instead of condemning him.

    Posted by Lorelai Gilmore November 28, 09 08:23 PM
  1. i agree just because you th ink you should don't think about do it and say whats in your head your heart. because i think no matter who it is you marry at long as you love them and will follow your vole it's okay.

    Posted by Princess Knox November 29, 09 06:05 PM
  1. *Agrees with 68 because of the sheer fact that everyone is using the ideal idea of the country against him when the country protects his right to not say the pledge.*

    Posted by AninnyMouse November 29, 09 06:40 PM
  1. Regardless if he came up with this on his own OR if his parents taught him this....This is awesome!!! This is how everyone should think. If you think it is okay to treat a gay person as a second class citizen, then you would be wrong. We have freedom of religion which includes freedom from religion, and we should have the freedom to marry. Marriage is human right, not a heterosexual prevliage. Regardless Gay marriage will be passed! The younger generation will make sure of it!

    Posted by John December 9, 09 02:58 PM
  1. What if Will had said "With all due respect, ma'am, I have a constitutional right to remain silent and seated and I choose to exercise that right. If you wish to continue this conversation I suggest we do so in the presence of the principal, my parents, whatever legal representation they retain on my behalf. Do you have any questions?"

    Posted by Trying to Think Through the Issue December 10, 09 04:16 AM
  1. I also do not participate in the pledge for this reason. I`m fifteen, and have decided that when everyone is awarded the same justices and liberties, I will join in on the pledge. In school today, however, I was made to stand for the pledge, even though I disagree with it morally. The teacher that made me say it literally shouted at me, and while the pledge was going on shouted the words at me, particularly the part about God and liberty.

    Afterwards, he shouted at me about my disrespectful behavior towards America.

    It`s always fun when adults tell you to form your own opinions on subjects and to educate yourself, but when your morals or thoughts disagree with their own, you`re suddenly in the wrong.

    Posted by Mollie September 27, 13 07:44 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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