- Editor's note: This is a letter to the editor from Geneva resident Andrea Cladis in response to Jeff Ward's column published Jan. 17.
Mr. Jeff Ward:
Thank you for making me a Patch news headline. Thank you for chastising my letter to the editor. Thank you for demonstrating to my students that bullying is ambient outside of the classroom, as well. And most importantly, thank you for so graciously proving my point that disdain for America is perpetuated by a far-left mentality.
The progressive model of education requires that students take courses to address the challenges of bullying in our schools. Not only do they learn how to fight bullies, but they learn how to be bullies. This backward logic aimed to be an infallible solution to the problem is abominable and has only served to increase the severity and frequency of bullying. For this wonderful development, we can also thank our progressive politicians and their leftist ideology.
In a liberal’s perfect world, everyone is a labeled a bully, with the exception of the “tolerant” individual who is actually the one harassing others. Those in the education sphere would categorize your reaction to my letter as a form of verbal cyberbullying, but casting such a categorization aside, I take no personal offense to your comments. I view your response merely as an expression of your opinion about this issue and your attitude toward the public education system in America.
Nonetheless, sifting through a barrage of emails and phone calls yesterday, I was repeatedly informed that I was being bullied on the Geneva Patch. Thus, adhering to the advice of anti-bullying experts, who advocate that bullying is best fought through confrontation, I felt an obligation to respond. So although you criticize schools for failing to serve what you consider some of the most important needs of young adults, you must at least commend public schools for providing instruction in this category.
Q: How to combat bullies?
A: It’s simple — make more of them.
Now, Mr. Ward, I have always been an inquisitive individual and I am wondering just how much time have you spent in public schools lately? How can you substantiate the claims that you made in your response to my letter without actually spending a significant amount of time in the environment you openly criticize? Adequate support for claims is a foundational aspect of viable journalism, but clearly the Patch does not value journalistic integrity. I would like to clarify that what you deemed my “list of grievances” was simply support for the claims I made about the attitude many public schools foster toward teaching traditional American values.
Granted, you are absolutely correct in your assessment of the fact that I do value and cherish my freedoms as an American citizen. I am biased in my personal ideology, as are you. I am grateful to our veterans, and I am thankful for the blessings and opportunities afforded to me in America that I personally have done nothing to deserve and nothing to physically defend. However, the point I think you are missing is that I cannot force the students with whom I work to adopt my personal worldview.
Education is designed to support democratic principles and provide exploratory opportunities for students. Learning is not about indoctrination, it is about the construction of knowledge. It is both a proactive and reactive experience that engages the mind in the development of critical and creative thought. On several occasions in your response column, you said that patriotism can only come from within. I don’t have any argument with that statement, but before a person can develop an internal morality that promotes love of country, they must understand what patriotism is and what it means.
In your view, the Pledge of Allegiance fails to do this, so I do not really see your concern about children being “forcibly” told to support America. This is perhaps one of the reasons why no charges were actually filed against McGroarty. Do keep in mind, though, that even in schools that have eliminated the pledge, students, especially those from diverse backgrounds, frequently ask what it means to be American. This question is part of their search for identity and belonging. As young adults gradually construct their own views of the world through the navigation of their social environment as well messages from the media, they begin to discover morality, humility and purpose in living.
Schools do not force students to align themselves with strictly patriotic, American beliefs. Instead, schools expose students, who are conveniently labeled “American citizens,” to American history and ideology. Ultimately, it is the individual who decides what values are important and what best reflects their compass of moral relativism.
For example, I was raised in a Greek Orthodox family. We attended lengthy Sunday services, we read the Bible at home, we prayed together, we participated in important religious holidays, and so by association, I was labeled a Christian. However, it was not until I was much older, had explored other faiths, questioned religion and even the validity of Christ that I discovered a new understanding and discerned what faith truly meant to me. It was only then that I became a Christian.
If we do not teach our children about America in our schools, we are doing them a great disservice as they explore personal values and develop their own view of the world. Just because a student recites the pledge does not mean that he or she will become an exuberant, patriotic citizen. However, living in America is something all children in American public school share in common, and as a result, they are naturally curious about its implications.
I am certain it might be upsetting for you to discover that young adults present very favorable views of individual freedom, personal responsibility and American ideals. And you’d likely be stunned to see the hostile reactions of students to the notion of removing many of the freedoms they so readily enjoy. Certainly, in your opinion, no child has to be grateful for the privilege of growing up in a free country. Yet, does it not remain our responsibility as adults to teach them about that country?
Finally, let’s also keep in mind that language is a social construct. Words essentially have no meaning until a society defines them based on culture and context. If you want to argue linguistics, I am eager to oblige. Consequently, to many, as you articulated, the words of the pledge might simply be hollow, meaningless words. And if that is the case, then where is threat
in optional recitation? Do you fear that one day when a student assigns meaning to the pledge that he or she will suddenly believe that America is the greatest place in the world?
You might be surprised to find that young adults are much more skeptical, independent thinkers than you appear to believe. Admittedly, I have not encountered a student who professes contempt for America, though many children do perceive America as the government and they view the government as an overwhelming albatross casting a shadow over their life. Or in the words of one of my high school students, “The government is like a big, evil monster that wants to tell me what to do because it doesn’t trust me or believe that I can do it on my own. It’s like having a boatload of parents that have too many rules and always steal your allowance to tax your fun.” But that’s an argument for another time.
Once again, thank you for your response column. Your repressive tolerance is astounding.
Related Articles and Opinion
- 3rd UPDATE: Dad's Dispute Over School Pledge Prompts Police Presence at Mill Creek Elementary in Geneva
- McGroarty Issued 'No-Trespass Order' at Mill Creek After Pledge Dispute
- No Charges in McGroarty's Jan. 9 'Disruption' Over Pledge at Mill Creek Elementary
- Some Area Schools Do Show Disdain for the Pledge of Allegiance—I Have Seen It
- Ms. Cladis! True Patriotism Only Comes From Within
- McGroarty Should Be Arrested and Charged