Missouri and the Benign Tumor of Worthless Laws

Me, in front of the Missouri state flag. Crying. Photo by Tony Madden.

Me, in front of the Missouri state flag. Crying. Photo by Tony Madden.

Me, in front of the Missouri state flag. Crying. Photo by Tony Madden.

Meredith Murphree, Opinion Editor

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I would like to preface this column by addressing my love for America. It’s a pretty cool place to live (most of the time) and I really appreciate it and the ideals the country is founded upon. Ideals like forming a more perfect union, providing for the common defense,  promoting the general welfare, and not wasting valuable legislative time and tax dollars on weird bills that accomplish exactly zero of the above.

That’s right, kids. I’m taking issue with The Pledge of Allegiance.

Missouri has a relatively new state law (revised statute 171.021, to be exact) that requires The Pledge to be recited at the beginning of each school day. That’s fine and dandy, but really, let’s take a step back here. The elected officials in the Missouri General Assembly actually took the time to:

  • Write the bill
  • Introduce the bill
  • Reread the bill and send it to committee
  • Hold hearings for the bill
  • Make amendments to the bill
  • Place the bill on a special calendar
  • Open the bill for debate
  • Place the bill on a second special calendar
  • Reread the bill AGAIN
  • Have a roll call vote about the bill
  • Send the bill to the Senate if it passes the roll call vote

That’s right—all of that just for the House of Representatives.

It’s easy to see how a simple bill could be quietly moved through the process. And really, this law is simple. It literally just addresses the recital of The Pledge and the display of the American flag at publicly funded schools. That’s it. Plus, the fact that students are not required to recite it (because of that pesky First Amendment). No riders, no sneaky language, no sketchy loopholes, nada. All of this nothing leads me to my ultimate quabble with this law: WHAT IS THE POINT?

I guess I have no real issue with the actual act of saying The Pledge every day; at this point in my public school career I don’t really give the words I’m saying a second thought. But seriously, why is this law even a thing? Are we afraid that our public high schoolers are not patriotic enough? Is it the communists again? Or maybe the Irish? I do not understand. For real, Missouri General Assembly, if teachers have to justify their lessons to students you should have to justify your random education laws to your constituents.

My biggest qualm, however, is that this law affects every public school student in the most benign way possible.

At the beginning of last school year, Springfield Public Schools had 807 homeless students. Both the Kansas City and St. Louis Public School districts are just reaching full accreditation. But, hey, at least the kids are getting a healthy dose of patriotism in “at least one scheduled class” per day.

Oddly enough, none of the above mentioned can be solved by the half-hearted recital of a ceremonial pledge. Right, because the above mentioned are real issues affecting  Missouri public schools. And real issues—as I regret to inform you, Missouri General Assembly—can’t be simply be solved with a plucky attitude and blind patriotism.

Try harder next time, Missouri General Assembly. Try to actually solve problems, like it’s your job or something.

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Missouri and the Benign Tumor of Worthless Laws