Battling Nationalism for Maria Montessori: I Pledge Allegiance to the Earth

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The time I stood up for world citizens and Maria Montessori, battled nationalism and boycotted the Pledge of Allegiance in my kids’ school and won … sort of, with a lot of help from my imagination.

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(08-29-2013, updated 07-15-2018)  Ipledgeafallegiance just changed the lyrics to the song “God Bless America“. Which reminded me that I once wrote my own version of the Pledge of Allegiance in protest of the nationalism in my children’s Montessori school. . It was not too long after 9-11 and my three-year-old daughter’s teacher decided to start each school day with the Pledge of Allegiance.

For my foreign readers: the Pledge is said standing up, with the right hand over the heart, and it goes as follows:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
And to the Republic for which it stands,
One nation under God, indivisible,
With liberty and justice for all.

Maria Montessori, who fled Italy when Mussolini came to power, felt very strongly that the only way to achieve world peace was to instill in children that they are first and foremost world citizens, not citizens of one country that’s superior or more blessed by gods than all other countries.

She was diametrically opposed to any form of nationalism. So she would have turned in her grave if she knew that a teacher at a Montessori school was having three-year-olds pledge allegiance to a national flag. It sure got me upset.

I talked to the teacher, and the compromise she suggested was that my daughter could leave the room while the rest was saying the Pledge. I countered that my daughter would be going to another classroom, where the teacher didn’t say the Pledge.

The next year that teacher left, and my daughter ended up in another class that said the Pledge. At age four she had to deal with her classmates disapproving of her and telling her she was supposed to say the Pledge. Or they would ask her why she didn’t say it. I had explained to her why I didn’t approve, but of course the reasons went right over her little head. So she gave her own explanation, a perfectly logical one, considering that it was usually the reason she wasn’t to say something: “My mommie says it’s a bad word.”

It sure explained the dirty looks I got from other parents at the next school event.

Anyway, for lack of another outlet for my frustrations and dissent–I didn’t have a blog yet–I wrote my own Pledge, and I printed out the first two lines line in a huge font and stuck it to the inside of my rear car window.

This was it, more or less:

I pledge allegiance to the earth,
To the universe in which it spins,
And to all people, living in peace,
With freedom and justice for all.

Oh yeah, I showed them!

Got anything you would like to change?

(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “I Pledge Allegiance to . . .”, 08-29-2013)

Header image:  mine

5 thoughts on “Battling Nationalism for Maria Montessori: I Pledge Allegiance to the Earth

  1. I like your version! Here’s a similar pledge we have on a poster in our kitchen. Martha used to have her Girl Scout troop recite it at the beginning of their meetings:
    I pledge allegiance to the Earth
    and all the life which it supports
    One planet, in our care,
    irreplaceable, with sustenance and respect for all.

  2. Great intention, but one cannot simply pledge itself to the world. This way of thinking is condemned in some places, so not having pride in the people of the nation that allows your child to go to such an open minded school is disrespectful. The one concept that has kept historic cultures thriving for so long is PRIDE. You pride in your liberal “forward moving” ideology. Children need to feel this pride in things they can justify in their minds. Respecting the hand that feeds and protects you is very important. There are many evils in this world, therefore the young ones need a sense of protection and the U.S. has an outstanding record of providing just that. Is it more harmful to have the children wanting to stand up for the US and its people or to simply lay down their shields and fold when an enemy nation decides to tread on your child’s free society? Bless you for your optimism and openness – may your ideology protect you against the brutal and evil people of this world. In the meantime, my Montessori children will strive for peace but will always stand their ground as patriots of their fellow Americans. You see, it’s more than just an outdated line in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.

    1. Thanks for your elaborate comment, and apologies for my extremely late reaction. I haven’t been that active on my blog for the past… eh, year.
      First of all, why can’t I pledge allegiance to the world? How is that stranger than pledging allegiance to a symbol?
      Second: “This way of thinking is condemned in some places, so not having pride in the people of the nation that allows your child to go to such an open minded school is disrespectful.”
      This argument is circular. My not pledging allegiance is frowned upon in some places, and therefore it’s disrespectful of me? Again, you’re just stating how you yourself feel about it, which is fine.
      Third: Montessori was Italian. She left Italy when Mussolini’s totalitarian regime–which included nationalistic indoctrination–made it unbearable for her. She ended up spending the last years of her life in the Netherlands, where Montessori schools are as common as pigeons. My point is that there are plenty more countries that allow minded education. That’s not unique to America, regardless of what you’ve been told all your life.
      Fourth: So you are saying that we shouldn’t be critical of “the hand that feeds” us? Are we no more than dogs, then? Who try to please their master because they are dependent on him for food? That analogy doesn’t work for lots of people. America is the only country in the western world with serious hunger issues. And the whole reason America was set up as the experiment it was back then was to enable people to stand up to their government when they felt it was wrong. Indoctrinating young children into believing that this is the best country in the world, that therefore can’t be improved upon, let alone criticized, is exactly the opposite of what the founding fathers had in mind. And it’s also the exact opposite of what Montessori had in mind.
      By the way, a lot of the brutal and evil people you refer to are that way because they, too, have been indoctrinated from an early age to believe that their ways are best and to see anyone who criticizes them as enemies whose heads must come off.
      So, apart from armies putting out fires as they arise, I believe that in the long run the only way there could ever be a reasonable amount of peace in the world is to teach our children to think for themselves. So I want my children to gradually come to their own conclusions about what they want to be proud of and what they can justify. ” Children need to feel this pride” is you imposing your ideals onto them. And in the case of a Montessori school, you are imposing those ideals onto others’ children as well.
      So my not wanting my three-year-old to say the pledge of allegiance is not an ideology, it’s me trying to protect my child from what I feel are misguided ideologies of others.
      And by the way, you can condemn all you want, nobody HAS to say the pledge. That’s a constitutional right, however much you and others like you try and make people feel it’s a rule that must be obeyed.

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