The new president of the San Francisco Board of Education, Stevon Cook, opened Tuesday night’s meeting in a way virtually guaranteed to anger conservatives: He just got down to work.
Instead of wasting time reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, Cook read a brief quotation by poet Maya Angelou — “When you learn, teach. When you get, give” — and moved on with the meeting. No one even seemed to notice until later on when another board member asked if he forgot about the Pledge.
School board member Rachel Norton said she initially didn’t notice that Cook didn’t call for the pledge and later asked the new president if he forgot.
When she realized it was purposeful, she was impressed.
“It feels respectful and it feels thoughtful,” she said. “Maya Angelou is an alumnus of (San Francisco’s) Washington High School, so who better to start a new tradition?”
That’s… an incredible reaction. It’s something we rarely hear from an elected official. And Norton is right! The decision was respectful and thoughtful. Cook even elaborated on why he chose to skip it:
He said the national political climate is disappointing and the current presidential administration “has been attacking our liberties.”
In addition, he said he believes the historical context for the pledge has been lost on most people.
“If you ask 10 Americans who wrote it, or when it was implemented, or why it is how we start our meetings, a lot of us would be hard pressed (to answer),” he said.
Those are fair points. You can’t pretend to have “liberty and justice for all” when this Republican administration routinely undermines both for people who don’t think and look like them. And the people complaining about how the Pledge needs to be recited — or who think football players have to stand for the National Anthem — are almost certainly the ones who don’t know our country’s history. They don’t know when “under God” was inserted in the Pledge. They don’t know the history of Anthem protests. No surprises there. Ignorance has led to this false sense of love for the country, as if robotically going through a ritual is synonymous with true patriotism.
We need more school board members like this, who toss aside mindless traditions in order to focus on what’s best for all students.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Brian for the link)