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Living in a multi-culture community

Original post made by Resident on Apr 20, 2007

It is only recently that I have begun to understand what living in a multi-culture community really means. I have always been pleased to see the different ethnic cultures in Palo Alto, learn about other traditions, hear other cultures, and be able to share mine in a non-threatening way with others. However, I have had two different conversations recently with two acquaintainces from two separate cultures which have actuallly shocked me. It seems that what I think of as normal values which I expect others to respect, is something that other cultures do completely differently.

One example, when invited to a co-workers wedding, the expectations of what was the norm for invited guests and what I was prepared to do were so totally different that I found the invitation to be not a friendly gesture but an onerous obligation. I am sure that that was not the intention of the invitation, but it was definitely too onerous for my sensibilities.

The second example was talking about the expectations one family wanted from their child's school. Without going into deep details, this family expected the school to be able to do much more than is expected by an American public school. This family felt deeply hurt that the school was not able to fascilitate their needs and felt that the taxes they were paying were a waste of money since they were not getting what they were paying for.

As I had conversations with these two people, I realised that they were indeed so different from me that in fact culture is not just traditions or a way of life that is different, but an inherent different way of looking at everything in life. Family values, social values, even moral issues, are somehow so deep that when we think that differences do not matter, we are really just hiding the fact that we really are very different underneath after all and the differences do matter much more than we thought.

Comments (47)

Posted by RT, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 20, 2007 at 11:56 am

Yes, different cultures have very different outlooks and expectaions. For example, in some cultures, it is customary to just show up in friends house without any prior notification or invitation, here it would be unacceptable. In some cultures, education is sacred. The government is expected to finance evry need of public schools and pay teachers top salaries regardless of budget constraints and anything else is unaceptable. This is why travel is so important. Once we understand cultures that are very different from ours. it's easier to co-exist with them.


Posted by Geoff, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 20, 2007 at 12:01 pm

Shouldn't we be aiming for a multi-racial, but mostly common culture that blends the best from all of the various groups that come here seeking to become Americans?


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2007 at 12:03 pm

Resident, you must have been living in a cocoon. Of course cultural differences are real. The old melting pot idea has gone the way of the Dodo bird. The exception, of course, is mass culture (Hollywood, pop music, etc.). But I don't think that is what you are talking about. For example, when was the last time that a school in Palo Alto obeyed the state education code and recited the Pledge of Allegiance?


Posted by PV Parent, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Apr 20, 2007 at 12:26 pm

John

Can't speak for all PA schools, but Palo Verde has an almost weekly all school assembly where the whole school plus staff and parents who are present are invited to recite the Pledge!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2007 at 12:31 pm

Geoff

This is exactly my point. Who is it that will decide what is "good" from each culture, let alone what is the "best from all the various groups" when these ideas are so completely opposite. What is good for one culture is just not on the map for others.


Posted by Culture Tick - Tock, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 20, 2007 at 12:40 pm

I will take specific items mentioned by the original poster:

Weddings, these are absolutely the epitome of a culture's offering. American weddings are simple formal affairs even children are rarely allowed, compared to say an Indian weddding.
Indian weddings is a place where 2 families bond. It is usually a long drawn process with different events specifically arranged by brides and the grooms side. There are expectation from both sides including guests who have different roles to play. If the host is very familiar with you will tell you what roles guests play. If you are not so familiar with the host the host will expect you to be a guest and won't bother you much and let you simply enjoy (do what you like and watch the fun mode).
In Indian weddings and parties if children are not invited, i know many of my friends will not like to go to such. Weddings without children present and their running all around is a joy. Of course it can be messy to adults' expensive dresses (like children dropping food, some breakage of cutlery etc.) which is to be expected and the expectation from the adults to play it cool is required. But the happiness and joy in an environment with children is wonderful. And what other place to show the santity of wedding and marriage to children than a setting of a wedding itself. Children also look at weddings as place to have a blast.
Yes there are differences. Some good some bad.

Regarding schools, the expectations may be different due to the fact that the parents have seen a different school system. They are usually bombarded that the school systems in US is great, only to their disappointment that they have seen better in third world countries. Remember PA is a place, where these parents have reached, a most sought after place in US, due to their personal efforts and education not via inheritance. They see their children not getting what they got in their own school system at considerably less cost. They fear they are not doing enough for their kids.

ASIDE: You got to watch this movie, "The Namesake", if you have't yet. It is rated four stars by all newspaper reviewers. Shows contrasting cultures, both significantly exagerated as expected in a movie.

Typed too fast, please absolve me of errors.




Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2007 at 1:02 pm

PV Parent, I am glad to hear that the Pledge is still happening, occasionally, in at least one of our schools. When my kids were at Escondido, it was not recited, until some guy complained about it, then it happened at general assemblies, as you describe. I have heard that it was dropped, once this guy got out of the picture.

The state education code requires a patriotic observance in home room every morning for grades 1-8. This is satisfied by the recitation of the Pledge. PAUSD has been violating the state code for many years. They have been made aware of it at BoE meetings, but they just decide to actively ignore the code.

The Pledge is just one small example of building national community. It means giving up previous allegiances, although not previous cultural identities. I have heard leaders of both left and right persuasions support the Pledge, but it seems that Palo Alto BoE would prefer to break the law, if it means offending a few people to enforce it.

I can't figure out what the complaints are about, since 'multi-culturalism' is the current rave. Either we, as a nation, decide that we want cohesiveness or we want separation. At this point, separation is winning.


Posted by Joseph, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 20, 2007 at 1:10 pm

The difference in the attitude toward public schools is most interesting. I was born in another country, and even the much admired Palo Alto school district would be almost a joke compared to the level of our public school education. The math, science, history, geography curriculum in my old country's public school system was lightyears ahead of the PA school district, not to mention other districts that are inferior in their quality to PA. Teachers salaries were equal to those of high skilled engineers and physicians. In this society, if you say that being a public school teacher is the most important profession in the society and therfore should be compensated accordingly, you will be locked up in an asylum.


Posted by Geoff, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 20, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Resident,

Good point - if you accept the multiculturist view of the world. (By that, I mean that ethnicity determines one's culture irretrievably making a common culture a logical impossibility.) I don't. My grandparents were from Finland. I don't speak Finnish. Don't like lutefisk, don't think of myself as having a blood-feud with Swedes or Russians, and identify myself as an un-hyphenated "American". I do this because the expectations of my grandparents and parents were that they would leave the "old country" behind and become Americans, and because my parents and grandparents accepted this paradigm for immigrants.

It was hard on my grandparents in many ways, but it's made it easier for me and my siblings and cousins than had we continued to think of ourselves as "Finnish-American". It's made our country better too in my opinion. So rather than having a "decider" about such matters, I think it would be best if multi-culturism (as currently preached in the academy and media) were turned to anathema rather than "celebrated", and we all started thinking of ourselves as American.




Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 20, 2007 at 1:28 pm

This thread has the potential for a useful and productive discussion.

One of the things that has come out of the last several months of conversation about foreign language instruction in PAUSD elementary schools is a District-led group that will start discussing FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary Schools) becoming part of the curriculum here. I have offered to be part of the group, given my earlier involvement with getting the Spanish Immersion program introduced here some years ago, and my interest and support of foreign language instruction for children at this stage of their development.

I think as part of that groups work product, the question of how we help our kids learn about other cultural traditions, or more importantly, how to understand that there are different cultural traditions, could be an important topic to include.

I for one would be interested in what people's thoughts are around that, as it could have direct bearing on the work plan the FLES group develops for its efforts in the coming months.


Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 20, 2007 at 1:53 pm

John, my kids recite the pledge regularly in school, but without any context. As in most schools, the yonger kids make mincemeat of the words. Without context it is a chant, not a meaningful statement.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Eric, the Pledge is full of symbolic meaning, and a first grader will not understand the context, nor should context be hammered in to him/her at that stage. It is a foundational exercise. It is a bit like "Thou shalt not kill". Only later on do we learn that it really means murder, then we have to distingusih what exactly is meant by murder, and who controls the definition, etc.

Of equal importance to me is that it sounds like your schools are obeying the law, while Palo Alto schools continue to flout the law. What message does that send to our kids?


Posted by sarlat, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2007 at 3:54 pm

I know that our school kids are constantly saying to each other:'hey dude, did you know that the district is flaunting the state law that mandates we recite the Pledge every morning? What a message is that to send us? Not cool!'


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2007 at 4:04 pm

Sarlat, I have a friend whose kid got nabbed for DUI. He had to go to court and say his mea culpas to the judge. As kids do, sometimes, he decided to get smart about it. He told the judge, " PAUSD doesn't enforce the law on a daily basis, so why should I obey the law, it's just pick and choose". The judge put down his rubber stamp and said, " What are you talking about?". The kid said, "I never had to say the Pleade of Allegiance". The kid got a more severe sentence than he would have otherwise. But he had a point. That kid is now a defense attorney.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2007 at 6:51 pm

I think that it is a shame that this thread has turned from a useful discussion to a discussion about the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. Whereas I think that that topic would also prove interesting, I would prefer that this thread stay as it started out and any more discussion on the topic of the Pledge be transferred to a new thread.

Thank you.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 20, 2007 at 7:05 pm

Resident, if you are the originator of this thread, just read your last parargraph. I bring up the Pledge (as an example) to illustrate that we, as a people, are not a united people - we are a bunch of separate groups that divide against each other. The Pledge is a modest attempt to overcome that problem.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2007 at 7:45 pm

John

I agree that the Pledge is as you say, an attempt to overcome the problem of diversity. I think that the real problem is that many here do not want that diversity to be overcome. I think that many would be Americans are proud to be American, only in the terms of the use of a US passport or the honor of being able to vote. My point is that diversity is alive and well and living all around us.

Yes, we want to live in the American dream, live the culture presented by Hollywood, eat the fast food and consume the durables. But, the reality is that many immigrants do prefer to keep the familiar old world rites and practices with which they cling to in their ethnic groups using their traditions and celebrations as a means of actually keeping their prejudices and refusal to accept American norms. I think that that is fine on the surface, but as we see beneath the surface we realise that it is in fact making it harder for them, or their offspring, to adjust.

One family who live near us keep their women in the house and on the few occasions I have seen them out and said a friendly "good morning" I have had scared stares as my response.

I know that some of the hot debates in this City are as a result of one group not understanding another's desire for something they consider a trifle to others. At present it is the MI debate, a few years ago it was jews wanting to put string around the city to make it a walled city.

My point is that we are a bunch of separate groups that divide against each other no matter how we think we are assimilating. The Pledge recited at school may or may not help the situation, but whether or not PAUSD is breaking the law by not reciting it deserves to be on a different thread.


Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Apr 21, 2007 at 12:35 am

Regarding cutural views of schools/education - it is indeed interesting to note that immigrants feel our schools are underperforming. There is undoubtedly room for improvement in any school, and in most US schools, more than a little improvement. However, it is important not to simply take someone's word for it when they say, "our schools in __country__ are so much better" without questioning what makes it better, how it's achieved, and whom it benefits. In some countries, academic rigor is achieved in high schools by simply denying a high school education to kids are below average around age 13. Are we ready to adopt that model and put half of our middle-schoolers on a technical/occupational track at that age? What passes for rigor might also be high test scores achieved by an emphasis on rote memorization and achieved strictly through lecture, note-taking, book work. Would we give up an education that offers more creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, etc.? On the other hand, I'm sure we have much to learn from other nations to improve the structures and organization of schools, along with noting some of the benefits of improved funding. But I'm leery of simple statements suggesting merely that one is better than another.

In a similar vein, it's common for many adults to simply look at change, note differences as shortcomings and assume the worst. Every generation back to ancient Greece has complained about its youth and their failures to live up to the standards of elders. It's also common for teachers to say students are showing up less and less prepared every year even when some research suggests there is no discernible difference. As adults, we sometimes seem amazed that younger children have yet to learn the lessons we haven't taught them - but did teach to some other, slightly older children.

Finally, I always bristle at the suggestion that any citizen is paying taxes to the state or local govt as a sort of fee for the education of their own children. Public education is financed by every citizen as an investment in the continued survival of our society and the hoped-for maintenance of our standards of living. EVERYONE derives benefits from public education, (with the possible exception of hermits who always have and always will live naked in caves eating insects and mushrooms).


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2007 at 10:27 am

This is a great discussion – including the pledge comments. It seems that immigrants no longer want to assimilate and that's both good and bad. My grandparents spoke only English at home because they wanted their eight kids to be American. Consequently, my mom never learned their language nor did I. Nowadays, many immigrants can't speak English after living here many years.

On the other hand, immigrants who study for citizenship seem to know more about our history and constitution than some who are native born.
The language and customs of one's native country are precious and I think it's great to pass them on to future generations and to share them with the community. We all learn something from them. But America is great because it's a melting pot and we somehow have been able to pull together to create common ideals. Look at the problems in Europe where assimilation has not happened.

An interesting quote from Theodore Roosevelt in 1907:
"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

More at Web Link


Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 21, 2007 at 11:50 am

Absolutely agree, Pat.

I am a first generation immigrant..or however you call someone born elsewhere but raised here..kept my home languages and heritage "pride", but was always taught that the most important and necessary part of being here was to become proficient in English, be loyal to my country, and appreciate the incredible liberties and human rights protections we have here.

This was taught to me by parents who never missed an opportunity to point out to me what was better about the US compared to where they were from, though still appreciating and enjoying what we brought with us from our original country. The schools supported this learning by making me mindlessly learn the pledge, patriotic songs and various cultural stories that embody the spirit of America's adventurism, honesty, value of hard work and appreciation of individuality ( George Washington and the Cherry Tree, Paul Bunyan, Daniel Boone etc).

I see these cultural unifying ties being lost in this area. Not the whole nation, but definitely here, where more value is given to not assimilating than to assimilating, not only in our local society, but also in our schools where there are even clubs for various ethnicities.

I object. I would like to see clubs for unifying ideals, not separateness. I would like to see more emphasis on what is great about our ideals and culture, not just on what we would like to improve ( as a nation of introspection ever given to trying to improve, we tend to focus on these to the exclusion of remembering how far we have come BECAUSE of who we are and our students pick up a tone of self-hatred).

We have gone too far in response to the fear of blind nationalism that arose in the 60s.


Posted by Neg Case, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 21, 2007 at 12:40 pm

Please allow me to present the NEGATIVE case to premise made by pat above. AFFIRMATIVE is provided by "Draw the line".

pat and 'draw the line': Please do not take the comments personally, it will shatter the discussion process.. Keep your persona out of the arguments.

Here I go -

I am also an immigrant. Some of the points that pat makes are simply incorrect.

1. Pat says: "Nowadays, many immigrants can't speak English after living here many years."

I have known immigrants that come to this country speaking very fluent English (even before they land here) however with some accent. If given an essay to write in English they will usually exceed most Americans. It is high time we differentiate the immigration in this country. There are immigrants that cross the border illegally who may not have enough educational background AND there are immigrants mostly legal, that come to US with excellent educational background that exceed the average American in English, Math, Science and personal qualities.

America needs them a lot. However trends today show that such high skilled immigration significantly declined over the past decade.

Additionally most immigrants coming to US before the age of 30 usually pick up conversational English in about 2 years.

2. pat says " ... immigrants who study for citizenship seem to know more about our history and constitution than some who are native born"

This statement couldn't be more wrong. The study and test for citizenship is an extremely simply thing. It takes no more than 1 hour to study and you can make some mistakes in the testing phase. If learning something for 1 hour clears you of your citizenship requirement please do not extrapolate this and tell me that these test takers know more about US history than a person who has gone to school and learnt some history. I am one of those immigrants and I cannot claim to know US history more than my child in high school does even though I cleared my US citizenship requirement without a single mistake.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2007 at 12:45 pm

This is extremely interesting. One thing that has probably changed in the last 20 years or so is that many immigrants here today do not feel that they will remain here for ever, either because they are on short term contracts for work, or are studying or doing research. These people, although they want to appear to be assimilating to some extent, still know that if they do not teach their children their native language and traditions, that they will find it much more difficult when they move back to their native lands. Also, since global travel is now available to almost everyone, any immigrant is probably going to be going back to their homeland for visits and this still gives them ties to their relatives and friends. That plus the ease of communication with their homeland through the internet, cheaper phone calls and satellite tv, means that the days when someone moving here has to give up all ties to home is gone. The feelings of wanting to assimilate are not so strong when it is relatively easy to hold on to the old ties from home.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2007 at 5:22 pm

Neg Case: No, I don't take your comments personally. This is a good discussion.

Just to be clear, I said that "many" – not all – immigrants cannot speak English. It's usually the older people. I worked with many people from India and China in the computer industry and most spoke and wrote perfect English before they arrived here. I know English is taught in most European countries.

I don't know what kind of history, geography or civics classes kids are getting in CA, but an article in the Chronicle last year caught my attention: "Seniors at UC Berkeley, the nation's premier public university, got an F in their basic knowledge of American history, government and politics in a new national survey, and students at Stanford University didn't do much better, getting a D." Full text at: Web Link

Here's another: "The most recent National Geographic Global Literacy Survey found that despite our recent war in Afghanistan, 83 percent of U.S. young adults could not find it on a map, 58 percent could not locate Japan and 69 percent were unable to find England. Close to 30 percent could not locate the Pacific Ocean and 11 percent of Americans could not even find the United States." Full article at: Web Link


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 21, 2007 at 6:05 pm

This is a very interesting thread. I posed the question earlier of how exposing to our kids in school an understanding of how to appreciate cultural differences, but what is coming up, perfectly fine BTW, is what seems to be a lack of adequate grounding in what it takes to truly be American.

We are lily white here in Losch land, but my daughter's friends come from various backgrounds. One thing that fascinates me is how alike all these kids (mainly girls) are in the way they talk, dress, etc. Even when the parents arrived here as adults, the kids now in school seem to take on many of the behaviors and traits of their peers. To the extent that they retain some cultural ties to their countries of heritage, and quite a few do, it seems to stay at home or only in environments where others of similar culture are fully present. When in Rome....

This does not mean that they are acquiring an understanding of what it truly means to be American. Much of what I see is typical teenage behavior in terms of how they talk, the TV and movies they like, the popular culture stuff. This tends to be the stuff that gets exported to other countries for public consumption, a la Baywatch.

But I must admit that we don't really try to foster an appreication for American Culture (whatever that means) in our household. We have done some trips to historic places, encourage reading of US history, but I suspect compared to some families with ties to other countries that are here, we push the old US of A much less than other countries are celebrated in such households.


Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 21, 2007 at 6:45 pm

The distinguishing feature of America "culture" is the respect for individual rights--life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is what should be fostered. All this multiculture business is way overdone.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Apr 21, 2007 at 7:17 pm

Paul,

I think information about different cultures is very helpful to anyone in America--in school or out. There seems also to be a place to discuss/define what is American culture in a deeper sense than movies, TV and music.

We went to an Indian wedding today and that small example brought me a whole new experience on an event (weddings) that is universal.

I don't think there is much agreement today about what it means to be an American, at least in the sense that more than a bare majprity would agree to.

I like freedom and tolerance as American values but am not sure how many agree.

Re the "pledge" discourse my memory is that the Pledge originated in 1892 at a time when women did not have the right to vote and African-American rights were very much in doubt. Whatever "liberty and justice for all" meant it was probably different than what we believe now. It has "culturally evolved".

We live in a region, state and country that has a growing Latino influence. I think learning and dicussion of culture and expectations that goes in both directions can only be helpful to us and our children.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2007 at 8:18 pm

The Wikipedia page about the Pledge of Allegiance has a good summary of its history. You will find out little tidbits such as the fact that its original writer intended it as a way to encourage obedience to the state.

When I was a kid I thought it was ridiculous. At first it because of the "under God" part (I became an atheist around age 7) -- which I refused to recite -- and later because I came to believe that a country whose virtues are self-evident doesn't need a pledge. I am proud to call myself an American because of the values this country holds dear and the good it's done in the world. Not because I had loyalty drummed into me by repetition of a pledge since I was young.

To my thinking the pledge is exactly the message we DON'T want to be sending to our kids. Its message, delivered loud and clear by virtue of the fact that it's led daily by trusted authority figures, is, "You are required to love your country." Loyalty through indoctrination is a tool of dictators and despots; a virtuous nation has no need of it. The message we should be sending is instead, "Your country is worthy of your love, because it's a force for good in the world." When that's true, pledges are superfluous.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 21, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Stephen, the Pledge did not exist in 1860 either (..."one nation... indivisible...") and we fought a Civil WAr to establish the principle. Before the Civil War the united states were... after it the United States is. The republic for which it stands is a representive form of governance, but it is not a popular democracy. In other words, it lends its trust to those whose better instincts can lead us. Liberty and justice for all is the ideal...probably never achieved, but it is the light at the end of tunnel.

Even if you don't agree with the Pledge's ideals, Stephen, the PAUSD is breaking the law by not offering the Pledge (or some equivalent) in home room, grades 1-8, each morning. High school is optional, but it would be even more relevant in that setting, as well as a good debate topic.


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2007 at 9:45 pm

You don't have to be from a different country or culture to be less than thrilled with the Palo Alto School system. Anyone from an upscale school district from affluent areas back East (e.g., Scarsdale), knows that the even the best public schools in California are significantly inferior. The recent antics of the principals, with their non-negotiable demands, is icing on the cake.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 23, 2007 at 10:32 am

What does it mean to be an American?

If you didn't watch 60 Minutes last night (4/22), there's another aspect of multiculturalism that you may not think about. The segment was titled "Stop Snitchin."

"In most communities, a person who sees a murder and helps the police put the killer behind bars is called a witness. But in many inner-city neighborhoods in this country that person is called a 'snitch.'"

I think most of us would tell the police if we knew a serial killer was living next door to us, but one rapper says, "I was raised differently, not to tell. . . It's a code of ethics."

Web Link

It's not just in inner-city neighborhoods.

In another segment, "The Mind of an Assassin," school shootings were discussed.

One shooter said, "Tomorrow, I'm coming with a gun. So, be careful. Don't come." Another shooter said "Bring your camera to take pictures." The person who was told did not tell authorities – but did bring a camera.

Web Link
Maybe our values aren't as universal as we like to believe.


Posted by Hifi, a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2007 at 12:42 pm

The Pledge is NOT Required in California

"The giving of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy the requirements of this section."

The above passage taken from California Department of Education (CDE) code(1) clearly states that conducting of the Pledge of Allegiance is not required by any state law or education code, but is merely recommended as a means of satisfying the requirement of a daily patriotic activity. Moreover, other state code invests school districts (e.g., local boards, superintendents, principals and teachers) with the legal authority to adjust school programs as a necessary in order to meet the "diverse needs unique to their individual communities and programs"(1).

In other words, every school official with responsibility for the education and school experience of our children has the right to determine, for themselves, what patriotic activity is appropriate.

It is bizarre that the state legislature saw fit to pass the Pledge recommendation law, in the first place, as it conflicts with anti-discrimination law in the state constitution(2) and as it undermines the letter and spirit of the CDE's own diversity mandates for classroom instruction, "Standards for Evaluating Instructional Materials for Social Content"(3).

Unfortunately, as an impotent administrative department of government, the CDE cannot declare the state statute recognizing the Pledge of Allegiance as a satisfactory patriotic exercise to be in violation of these laws. It is therefore has been useless to submit any complaint to the schools at the state level.

And yet, the good news is that each teacher, principal and superintendent can act, independently, to honor and recognize the diversity in their own classrooms, schools and communities. It is not up to someone else. Teachers and principals have the discretion to conduct a patriotic activity as they see fit - including an activity that all children can join in.

The law is that every school official can engage their students in whatever patriotic exercise is best suited to the diversity of his or her individual classroom and educational goals. There are plenty of options beyond the problem-riddled Pledge that are within the law for all California public schools in a society dedicated to nuturing and even promoting diversity.

For more about Pledge issues, please see:
Web Link


-----

1) EDUCATION CODE SECTION 52720. In every public elementary school each day during the school year at the beginning of the first regularly scheduled class or activity period at which the majority of the pupils of the school normally begin the schoo lday, there shall be conducted appropriate patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy the requirements of this section.

2) EDUCATION CODE SECTION 35160

35160. On and after January 1, 1976, the governing board of any school district may initiate and carry on any program, activity, or may otherwise act in any manner which is not in conflict with or inconsistent with, or preempted by, any law and which is not in conflict with the purposes for which school districts are established.

35160.1. (a) The Legislature finds and declares that school districts, county boards of education, and county superintendents of schools have diverse needs unique to their individual communities and programs. Moreover, in addressing their needs, common as well as unique, school districts, county boards of education, and county superintendents of schools should have the flexibility to create their own unique solutions.
(b) In enacting Section 35160, it is the intent of the Legislature to give school districts, count


Posted by Hifi, a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Continued:

2) EDUCATION CODE SECTION 35160

35160. On and after January 1, 1976, the governing board of any school district may initiate and carry on any program, activity, or may otherwise act in any manner which is not in conflict with or inconsistent with, or preempted by, any law and which is not in conflict with the purposes for which school districts are established.

35160.1. (a) The Legislature finds and declares that school districts, county boards of education, and county superintendents of schools have diverse needs unique to their individual communities and programs. Moreover, in addressing their needs, common as well as unique, school districts, county boards of education, and county superintendents of schools should have the flexibility to create their own unique solutions.
(b) In enacting Section 35160, it is the intent of the Legislature to give school districts, county boards of education, and county superintendents of schools broad authority to carry on activities and programs, including the expenditure of funds for programs and activities which, in the determination of the governing board of the school district, the county board of education, or the county superintendent of schools are necessary or desirable in meeting their needs and are not inconsistent with the purposes for which the funds were appropriated. It is the intent of the Legislature that Section 35160 be liberally construed to effect this objective. (c) The Legislature further declares that the adoption of this section is a clarification of existing law under Section 35160.

3) Article IX, Section 8, Constitution of the State of California:
"…nor shall any sectarian or denominational doctrine be taught, or instruction thereon permitted, directly or indirectly, in any of the common schools of this state."

4) Religion Education Code Section 60044(a) and Subsection (b), Standards for Evaluating Instructional Materials for Social Content

Purpose. The standards enable all students to become aware and accepting of religious diversity while being allowed to remain secure in any religious beliefs they may already have.

Method. The standards will be achieved by depicting, when appropriate, the diversity of religious beliefs held in the United States and California, as well as in other societies, without displaying bias toward or prejudice against any of those beliefs or religious beliefs in general.

Applicability of Standards. The standards are derived to a degree from the United States and
the California constitutions and relate closely to the requirements concerning the portrayal of
cultural diversity. Compliance is required.

1. Adverse reflection. No religious belief or practice may be held up to ridicule and no religious group may be portrayed as inferior.

2. Indoctrination. Any explanation or description of a religious belief or practice should be presented in a manner that does not encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any particular religious belief.

3. Diversity. When religion is discussed or depicted, portrayals of contemporary American society should reflect religious diversity.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 23, 2007 at 1:26 pm

Hifi,

Here is the specific California Sate Educationa Code regarding the Pledge:

52720. In every public elementary school each day during the school
year at the beginning of the first regularly scheduled class or
activity period at which the majority of the pupils of the school
normally begin the schoolday, there shall be conducted appropriate
patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of Allegiance to the
Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy the requirements
of this section.
In every public secondary school there shall be conducted daily
appropriate patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of
Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy
such requirement. Such patriotic exercises for secondary schools
shall be conducted in accordance with the regulations which shall be
adopted by the governing board of the district maintaining the
secondary school.

Now, Hafi, I am not aware of ANY patriotic exercise that is conducted evey morning in home room in grammer schools in Palo Alto. If it is not the Pledge, what is it? It is NOT up to individual teachers to violate the requirments of the Code, even if you think they should. PAUSD is violating the law on a daily basis.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 24, 2007 at 1:17 am

John,

You don't have to be aware--the code is clearly nebulous. Looks like a bit of grandstanding with enough vagueness written into it that it's meaningless.

When I was in school, we did the pledge. We also sang a patriotic song. I don't think rote recitations teach cultural values. I can think of any number of alternatives to the Pledge--intro to the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg address, saluting the flag.

Besides, no one's going to touch the Pledge because requiring it with the "under God" probably is unconstitutional and nobody wants to go near that hot potato again, which is why the Supremes did such a lame dodge a few years back. Remember, we're the Ninth Circuit here and that crew of judges loves to stir things up.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 24, 2007 at 7:46 am

"...there shall be conducted appropriate patriotic exercises."

OhlonePar,

Just out of curisoity, what patriotic exercise is done each morning at Ohlone?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2007 at 8:42 am

Isn't raising the flag every morning on a flagpole a "patriotic exercise". I think all our schools in Palo Alto have a flag and they are raised daily, including lately when they have raised to half mast to respect the Virginia Tech situation.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 24, 2007 at 9:10 am

Resident,

If all the school kids started off their day with a flag raising ceremony, it would probably pass muster. But just having the janitor raise the flag won't cut it. BTW, it is half 'staff' not half 'mast' (masts are those things on boats).


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 24, 2007 at 12:01 pm

I grew up in Palo Alto during the 60s and 70s. As an adult, I have come to appreciate how fortunate I am to have learned about other cultures first-hand from the time I was in preschool. Living on Stanford campus when I was a child and having close friends from all over the world has enriched my life tremendously. When I looked recently at the yearbook of a friend who grew up on the East Coast and saw nothing but white faces there, I realized how diminished that upbringing was. And for the record, we recited the Pledge when I was student in Palo Alto, but my friendships with people from other countries has taught me much more than any "patriotic exercise." I would rather that my child learn to be a global citizen and to respect other cultures than have a sense of patriotism and little understanding of the rest of the world.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 24, 2007 at 12:48 pm

"I would rather that my child learn to be a global citizen and to respect other cultures than have a sense of patriotism..."

Parent, that doesn't surprise me, especially in Palo Alto, but I want our kids to learn to be U.S. citizens, not global citizens. If I am forced to be a world citizen, then I want my tax take to be that Bangladesh, and I will join whatever militia that will provide security for my family - I wouldn't feel comfortable with Al Queda defending my interests. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by PA Dad, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 24, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Asking children to pledge allegiance to a flag strikes me social indoctrination of the most inane kind. I do like the idea of children reciting a statement of joint purpose together in the morning, though. What would be truly patriotic? How about:

"I pledge allegiance to my school community and the national community in which I live. It respects me and I promise to return that respect. I will cherish all life. I will admire people most for the content of their character and the quality of their ideas. I dedicate my work to the pursuit of America's core ideals -- a life well-lived, liberty and justice for all."


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2007 at 1:32 pm

John

According to wikipedia, the terms half staff and half mast are synonomous. Although the term half mast sounds more nautical, the main difference between the two terms is cultural.

This exactly proves the point that there are inherent difficulties living in a multi-cultural society. The fact that someone uses a slight different term for the same thing does not necessarily make them un-American, just shows that they started off from a different starting block. The fact that there are more than one way of saying the same thing and that the differences are being pointed out shows that we are all easily offended when things are not done the expected way when describing something that is in effect unifying rather than divisive. The fact that the flags are half way up the flag poles and are respected as such are much more important than the words used to describe such an occurance.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 24, 2007 at 1:55 pm

John,

A person can be both a proud U.S. citizen, which I am, and consider oneself a citizen of the world. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Resident, of course there are conflicts and difficulties, but that is one good reason to adhere to official exercises of patriotism and protocol. For instance, the Federal Flag Code (Web Link )
refers to "half staff", but never "half mast". Wikipedia is not as bad as some people say, but it is bad sometimes. Any experienced newspaper editor would red pencil the term "half mast" from a cub reporter's first draft of a story, and replace it with "half staff". That is called cultural knowledge.

You seem to support a morning flag ceremony for the students every morning (great!), so it won't offend me that much if you call it staff or mast - we will all get the meaning. The students can then go into their classrooms and debate about the proper terminology. They might, at least, learn the difference between a mast and a staff.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Parent, you ARE a U.S. citizen, proud or not. That comes with burdens, not just opportunites. For instance, try avoiding paying your income taxes - even if you think they are being used for unjust causes.

You consider yourself a citizen of the world. Nice. I consider myself a spirit of the universe. So what?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2007 at 2:05 pm

John

You seem very knowledgeable about the flag and that is wonderful. I have children who have gone through high school and they do not seem to be as knowledgeable about the flag. Maybe you are correct, there should be more taught about it in school. It would be just as patriotic as reciting a pledge to it.

In the middle and high schools there are morning announcements and these are done over a pa system, in the middle schools I think they are done over cctv. A flat blowing in the breeze could also be classed a something patriotic over the opening of this.

You do seem very concerned about patriotic shows and this is very commendable. You seem a little more concerned than most which is also commendable and probably unusual.

However, we do live in a multi cultural society. Many of the kids in our schools are not US citizens and will probably not spend the rest of their lives here. If someone here for a short period of time tries to do something right for the right reason and inadvertantly uses the wrong term, shouldn't a more welcoming attitude be made on their mistake. If the term is acceptable elsewhere which it undoubtedly is, then being pedantic about it is not particularly welcoming.

English is a global language and the fact that its usage is slightly different here to other places in the world means that for the sake of culture, we should be able to understand the nuances. For instance, the term living on a street here (as in living on Middlefield) means something completely different in other parts of the world (putting up a tent on the middle of the road) and if you, heaven forbid, used that phrase elsewhere you wouldn't want to offend the natives I am sure. (btw it would be living in Middlefield).

(The song "I'm on the street where you live" from My Fair Lady always amuses British audiences as it is supposedly sung by a very English gentleman).


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2007 at 2:39 pm

Resident, I agree with some of your points, and I find your take on things pretty amusing in a postive sense. English is an international language, and it has its own meanings in different cultures. The Britsh may well be a 'mast' people (they ruled the world with their ships!), while we are mostly of a flag pole (staff) people. At any rate, I happen to believe that patriotic ceremonies are more inclusive than exclusive; conversely, I think that blocking such exercises is more exclusive than inclusive.

My brother lived in a foreign country for a couple of years, and his kids all said that country's version of the Pledge. He had no problem with it (when in Rome...), and he was appreciative of the opportunities that the country offered him and his family. He was glad that they got the opportunity to tune in to the culture in such an intimate way. He certainly did not feel offended in any way. Why would foreigners, who avail themselves of our hospitality? At a minimum, they could just stand, respectfully, and be silent. We should not be cheating our own kids out of the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves (their nation).

I think the morning flag ceremony, around the flagpole is a great idea. The honor of raising the flag could be shared by different student each day. The foreign students might especially feel honored.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2007 at 2:55 pm

John

I agree with you completely. I think we have found common ground at last.

It works. Debates can end in success.


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