Summer School

The Raspberry School is part of the Norwegian area of Old World Wisconsin.  The one-room schoolhouse dates back to the late 19th century and brings back memories for lots of visitors who went to schools like this one.  One fellow I talked to said he loved telling people that he graduated 3rd in his class…and omitting the fact that there were only 3 pupils in his grade level.

Multi-aged classrooms became a “new” education idea again in the 70s when I was in grade school and when my kids were in elementary school in the 90s, but ours only spanned two grades.  I remember when we all walked home for lunch in the middle of the day.  No lunch pails needed. 

Each desk at the school has a slate and a slate pencil (no chalk, just slate on slate) and a copy of one of the McGuffey Readers.  I never used one as a child.  What about you?

But I found the most fascinating thing I learned last Monday at this school was about the Pledge of Allegiance.  The 1892 version by Francis Bellamy reads: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  With so many immigrants from different nations, allegiance to a new flag was part of public school education.  It wasn’t until 1923 that the phrase “the flag of the United States of America” replaced “my flag”.  Bellamy protested, but his opinion was ignored.  Twenty years after that, in Japanese internment camps, all those over the age of 17 were asked if they would swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and “forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization”.  It wasn’t until 1954, when atheism and Communism were perceived as national threats, that “under God” was added.  Francis Bellamy’s granddaughter asserts that the author of the original pledge would have objected to this change as well.  

To what or to whom would you pledge your allegiance?  Liberty and equality (which Bellamy wanted to include but knew the state superintendents were against equality for women and African Americans) and justice are the three great ideas of the American political tradition, according to Dr. Mortimer Adler.  Are we in agreement on supporting these ideas in the U.S.A.?  It’s something to think about as Independence Day approaches.  Feel free to submit an essay in the comments section.  Spelling counts, but neatness doesn’t (it’d be typed, after all). 

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