Nina Burleigh, the reporter who last made headlines when she encouraged women to thank former President Bill Clinton for keeping abortion legal by donning kneepads and doing a … how shall I phrase this … a Lewinsky, has written an article for Salon.com [you’ve got to watch a short ad to read it] where she decries the pro-American indoctrination that her kindergartener got at an upstate New York school.
In the fall of 2004, we enrolled our son in kindergarten at the Narrowsburg School. The school’s reputation among our friends, other “second-home owners,” was not good. “Do they even have a curriculum?” sniffed one New York City professor who kept a weekend home nearby. Clearly, Narrowsburg School was not a traditional first step on the path to Harvard. As far as I could tell, though, no one besides us had ever set foot inside the building. When my husband and I investigated, we were pleasantly surprised. The school had just been renovated and was clean, airy, cheerful. The nurse and the principal knew every one of the 121 children by name. Our son would be one of just 12 little white children in a sunny kindergarten class taught by an enthusiastic woman with eighteen years’ experience teaching five-year-olds.
Still, for the first few months, we felt uneasy. Eighty of Narrowsburg’s 319 adults are military veterans and at least 10 recent school graduates are serving in Iraq or on other bases overseas right now. The school’s defining philosophy was traditional and conservative, starting with a sit-down-in-your-seat brand of discipline, leavened with a rafter-shaking reverence for country and flag. Every day the students gathered in the gym for the “Morning Program,” open to parents, which began with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a patriotic song, and then discussion of a “word of the week.” During the first few weeks, the words of the week seemed suspiciously tied to a certain political persuasion: “Military,” “tour,” “nation” and “alliance” were among them.
If you knew nothing else of the world, if you were just 5 or 6 or 10 years old, and this place was your only America, you wouldn’t have any reason at all to question the Narrowsburg School’s Morning Program routine. Hand over heart, my son belted out the Pledge with gusto every morning and memorized and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I never stopped resisting the urge to sit down in silent protest during the Pledge. But I also never failed to get choked up when they sang “America the Beautiful.”
Burleigh also notes that 25 percent of the town’s population is military or retired military — is it really that suspicious when you’ve got that many people who have served that the school would choose some of those words? And seriously, is the idea of a “nation” really that horrifying to Burleigh.
At what point does it become OK to question her patriotism, since she seems to be doing quite a bit of it herself?