Valencia Community College professor John Scolaro raises some interesting questions in his discussion of the state-mandated display of American flags in public college classrooms. “What value does the placement of an American flag have within the context of any classroom?” he asks. Very little, I would agree. It’s a silly law, like many of the bureaucratic rules that bedevil our country. Equally ridiculous, however, is the thought that such a flag poses an impediment to free speech and controversial dialogue.
“Who would dare criticize America with a flag shimmering in your face?” Just about anyone! Having grown up in the 60’s and 70’s, with flags in every classroom and the Pledge of Allegiance recited every morning, did not hinder my generation from criticizing America with great vigor, in class and out.
“Suppose I decide to blow my nose on one of the flags, or remove it from its holder, or even burn it. What then?” Then, Professor Scolaro, you would be rude, uncivilized, and unworthy of the teaching profession. Long ago I decided not to participate in group recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance, but never doubted that basic human courtesy requires me to stand, quietly and respectfully, in the presence of others for whom the exercise is meaningful.A private school could and should object to a government-mandated flag display in its classrooms. Any thinking person might reasonably question the cost/benefit ratio of such a law. However, someone who would seriously be disturbed by the presence of a state or national flag in his state-run, state-funded classroom should consider that he may have chosen the wrong institution in which to work.