Think for Yourselves, Young Folks, so Long as You Think Like Me

You know what's funny? We ask our young adults to throw themselves into the youth versions of established adult institutions—your governmental bodies, your newspapers, etc.—but when the kids dare express dissent or themselves in a way that rubs the ruling class the wrong way, the adult overlords crack down on the kids. Case in point: the Orange Coast College student government. For whatever reason, the student body officers decided they would no longer say the Pledge of Allegiance before their twice-weekly meetings. Well, you'd think the kids had bombed a bank, kidnapped a professor or matter-of-factly been walking across the Kent State campus before being felled by National Guard bullets.

Now, keep in mind that the student leaders—following their OCC-approved rules and guidelines—decided on their own to remove the pledge portion of their meeting. And yet, a history professor (!) is now circulating a petition to get the student leaders ousted.

A first reaction would be, hey, if you don't want to say the pledge, don't. Have everyone stand, face the flag and whoever wants to pledge can pledge and whoever doesn't can wait the 28 seconds or so it takes and then sit down. That's what I do during National Anthems at ball games or prayers in church. Just respectfully stand and keep your mouth shut (it's also fun scanning the room to see who else is/is not praying; you'd be surprised, especially when you lock eyes with the guy leading the prayer!).

But then again, if this elected body is against going through the ritual, so what? No one should be ordered to pledge anything to anyone—or pretty soon you'll have Hitler's tanks rolling up Fairview Road. In this case, it seems the people squawking about the kids have drawn more attention to a matter that would have been quickly forgotten. And spare me your, “I didn't have bullets whizzing by my head in Korea so that you could not say the Pledge.” It just makes you sound even stupider than you look squeezed into that “I fought in Korea” jacket.

Students who dared follow their conscience are all over the news currently. The editor of USC's student newspaper just up and quit because administrators were blocking his attempts to restructure the paper's job duties. The principal at Carson High ceased publication of the student newspaper because of commentaries that argued for legalized marijuana, masturbation and greater sexual freedom—which just goes to show you how much hasn't changed since I went to high school in the late 1970s. The censorship came a week after a controversial issue was yanked because students hanging out at a local Taco Bell were compared to a “pack of monkeys.”

I've been to that Taco Bell; the monkeys should sue.

And then there's the case the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up. A student standing on a street outside a Juneau, Alaska, high school in 2002 unfurled a banner that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” as the torch for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City passed by. The school's principal tore the banner up, the student sued saying his free-speech rights had been impugned, and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sided with the student this past March.

It all goes to show you that you can lead the young man and woman to the ruling body, Fourth Estate or public gathering, but you can't make them drink the Kool-Aid.

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