Monthly Archives: December 2009

A little Pledge of Allegiance history

On December 28, 1945, the Congress of the United States of America officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance, in this form:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The original text was penned by Francis Bellamy, an American Baptist minister, in 1892. Published in the Youth’s Companion on September 8, 1892, the Pledge was intended to help Bellamy and James Upham (Companion coworker) further a goal of putting a flag above every school in the nation. Not altruistic, those flags were sold by the magazine and when business slowed, the Pledge was a way to boost sales. Bellamy’s original text read slightly different than that adopted by Congress:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

In the publicity campaign, the salute described by Bellamy (but originated by Upham) to accompany the Pledge was an extension of the right arm toward the flag. This civilian salute was used until 1942 when President Roosevelt changed it to the now familiar right hand over the heart salute to be different than the Italian fascist , and later Nazi salute.

In 1940, a Supreme Court decision upheld a school district’s decision to compel students to recite the pledge, even if such a recitation violated personal beliefs. In that case, it was a Jehovah’s Witness family that brought suit and lost. But in 1943, the Court reversed its position on a different case, forbidding a school from requiring students to say the Pledge. The Court ruled against “compulsory unification of opinion.” Hmmm.

Louis Bowman, Chaplain for the Illinois Society of the Sons of the Revolution, is credited with introducing the words “under God” in 1948. Taken from Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, those words gained traction, particularly with the Knights of Columbus. In those 269 words, Lincoln may have included “under God”. I say may because the four earliest transcriptions in Lincoln’s hand did not include the words. To be fair, at least three reports from the dedication quoted the President as having used the words “under God.” Not known is how many reports didn’t include them. It may be that he deviated from his prepared speech and added the words at the time. By his own hand, the fifth transcription did include them. Now, Lincoln also said, “The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.” Does that mean he was an atheist? No. But that statement, coupled with many others and Mary Todd’s own admission after his death, means he wasn’t a Christian. As that has no bearing on a belief in God and a national statement defining such, I leave it only to caution those that would appropriate and misconstrue Lincoln and his cited fore-(founding-) fathers as having founded this nation on Christian principles to think again, and read their history. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I firmly believe that said founding fathers would be appalled at the involvement of religion in public policy today. There are a great many quotes supporting my supposition, but I’ll save that discussion for another day

So, in response to the Red Scare and McCarthy’s fanaticism, Congress altered the text to introduce a “coercive requirement to affirm God” and on June 14, 1954, President Eisenhower signed the bill into law. That phrase in quotes is from a US District Judge ruling in 2005 that a California requirement to recite the pledge in public schools violated the Establishment Clause.

I attend many functions and meetings where the Pledge is recited. While I still have not decided whether swearing to a flag makes sense, I am a patriot regardless and I support the republic for which it stands. I also believe that “liberty and justice” have not yet been afforded to “all”. More’s the pity.

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Fixing things is fun, but when did refrigerators become like Windows?

I have the shop manuals for our 1999 Chevy Express van and they have far more details than the trusty old Chilton’s , but if I have a question, the manuals don’t have much in the way of troubleshooting. So, how did I ever live without the internet? I type in the phrase “groaning while turning left” and get to a page or three of possibilities (actually, hundreds of Google pages), one of which leads me to suspect the bearings. So, I jack up the van, pull the right front tire, and tighten the bearing nut. Voila! No more groaning noise! Of course, that’s a temporary fix, and I am sure I need to replace the bearings, but I can do that later. [Update: it actually turned out that the brake caliber mounting surfaces were not lubricated…discovered only after replacing bearings did not fix the problem…]

Now, refrigerators are supposed to be simple. Ours is a Sears Kenmore Elite that should not be breaking as we’ve only had it three years. Yesterday, the LCD panel has four letters on it, and none of the little icons that tell me the temp and whether I’ll get water, crushed or chunk ice when I stick a glass under the outlet. The letters? “ER FF’. I save all my manuals in binders and got out the one for the fridge. Of course, there is no mention of error codes. Back to the internet! Fix Ya.com has on more than one occasion been a good source. I found out about the bad capacitors in my Akai tv on that web site, along with the steps to fix it. So, when Google returned a FixYa link, off I went.

Curious thing about American companies rebranding imports: our rental in Mexico earlier this month was a Dodge Attitude. Or was it? The key was wrapped in black plastic stamped with a Hyundai logo. Same logo was on the wheel covers. So the Dodge Attitude is actually a Hyundai Accent. And, as it turns out, the Sears Kenmore refrigerator is actually made by LG. Sort of explains why they look so much alike. (Now I’m wondering about the GE front load washer/dryer that looks so much like my LG). But I digress. Explained nowhere logical, and apparently unknown by Sears tech support, the error code stands for “Error – freezer fan”. I read a post from a FixYa responder and learned that I’d have to take apart the freezer and defrost the coils behind the plastic panel in the back. Okay. That I did, and found big chunks of ice. I am concerned that the problem will recur as it has for others, but we’ll see.

So, I type this now on WordPress’s page using the Firefox browser running within Windows 7. Back in the day, I knew DOS inside and out and could make magic with it. Now, if I have a problem with Windows (um, if?) I run to the internet. Kind of like with my refrigerator. Or my van. Or….

On the need for political correctness

‘Tis the season as they say, and sadly, it seems that there is always an issue of bridling at “political correctness” – as if those two words together are worse than George Carlin’s heavy seven. (More so given the political shift in 2008) Chill, people, chill!

My enlightenment came upon leaving the provincial comfort of small town Connecticut in 1979 when I learned… gasp… that there were more view points than those I grew up with. Actually, it started sooner when I thought my father was nuts for insisting on no changes to the church service when we got a new minister – “What was he thinking doing the bible reading before the second hymn? That’s supposed to come after!

People are generally uncomfortable with new and different. Even if the new just might be better.

Anyway, in going off to college in another state – the foreign upstate New York “another state” – and discovering little things like different food names (i.e. subs, hoagies, heroes, and our own, very parochial grinders) were such a geographic thing was an eye opener. Cultures are different. Prejudices are different. I naively thought I didn’t have any – I admit with shame that in our youth, if we ever admitted to being lost, my brother and I would feign a southern accent to ask directions, because an accent like that implied…well, as I said, I’m ashamed of the way I thought back then. Still, I like to think I grew past the environment. I learned to be more sensitive to the feelings of those around me. And I wish more people would do the same.

I consider political correctness as a fundamental respect for others. Don’t arrogantly assume someone else thinks like you. Don’t presume. Particularly when it comes to something like religion. We should be able to take a Merry Christmas wish in the intent in which it was offered, even though we might not be a Christian. But what if I am a Jehovah’s Witness and am offended by that because I do not celebrate the holiday? Or Jewish or Muslim or Wiccan? How does making a general statement like “Happy Holidays” hurt you while at the same time not hurting anyone else? Per the converse, by wishing someone a particular holiday presumes they share that sentiment. Your holiday may not be my holiday.

So, instead off getting all righteous and indignant about how the holiday is being hijacked by so called “liberals”, how about thinking of someone other than yourself for a change? Take a moment to consider others. “Happy Holidays” is generic, inoffensive and even if someone is not celebrating any holiday, chances are he/she will have the holiday off and it differs none from wishing them a good weekend.

Bottom line: politically correct means being polite and considerate. Try it. You won’t burn in hell. Or Xibalbá. Or Gehenna. Or Avīci. Or, oh bother….you get it.

Review: Weapons of Mass Instruction

Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto is without a doubt the most important book I have read in several years. His recap of Alexander Inglis’s six functions of modern schooling (from Inglis’s “Principles of Secondary Education”) in his prologue hooked me immediately.  Gatto opened America’s eyes to the problems of compulsory education in 1991 in “Dumbing Us Down”. With “Weapons of Mass Instruction”, he continues his crusade against the establishment he was a part of for 30 years. To think there was a deliberate plan to create the mind-numbing schools I managed to survive is maddening. As is everything else he talks about.

Part lecture, part testimonial, all scathing indictment, this book will be lauded by homeschoolers and most likely condemned by teachers and administrators, dismissing his vision as untenable.

Gatto trickles a bit of his extensive research for his other book, “The Underground History of American Education” in outlining the historical (German) basis for a system that is designed to create conforming non-thinkers. He highlights a number of examples of extremely successful dropouts and people who were not schooled in the traditional way. And he draws on his direct experience within the system, contrasting with all those successes he cites to blister the institution that manages rather than teaches. Harsh? Perhaps. But think of how much time was spent in your “schooling” marching to the rules. As he overstates in one section of his book, primary school is mostly “don’ts” and little encouragement to think outside that proverbial box. And it is getting worse. I have questioned for many years the value of standardized testing and Gatto brings up the same questions. The measuring sticks fail to truly measure anything except how well someone can do on those tests.

This is a must read for any homeschooler. And it should be required reading for every superintendent, teacher and compelled student. Let the revolution begin.