For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
June 11, 2003 - I Pledge
When I was young and foolish and hitchhiking my way around the southwest, I found an easy way to pick up some cash. I would go to a university, and sign up as an art model.
Yes, dear reader, your local librarian once took off his clothes for money. Back then, I did an hour or so of yoga every day and walked everywhere. I was in very good shape. Times, alas, have changed.
The combination of few inhibitions, coupled with remarkable flexibility and muscle definition, made me a popular model. The work was easy -- an hour or so of not-too-strenuous poses in a comfortable "life drawing" classroom. It also paid surprising well, about a dollar over minimum wage.
When I got to Tuscon, I went to the University of Arizona's personnel department to sign up for work. And there, for the first time ever, I was asked to raise my right hand and swear that I was not a communist. Well, I'm NOT a communist, so that wasn't hard. But I was utterly bemused. What was the message? The state of Arizona could pay somebody to take off his clothes in public, UNLESS he was a communist?
Suppose I had been a liar? Why, they could have had a lying, buck naked communist right there on campus! And what good would their pledge have done them then?
Now Colorado has its own new public requirement of loyalty. Recently signed into law is House Bill 03-1368. In brief, it requires all Colorado public students (elementary through high school) to recite, on every school day, the Pledge of Allegiance.
There are some exemptions. The bill says that if teachers or students object on religious grounds they will not be compelled to recite. Parents and guardians who object on behalf of their children on any grounds and submit a written statement to that effect, can also exempt a child from recitation. Finally, students and teachers who are not US citizens are not required to recite the pledge.
Let me make my own position clear. Not only am I not a communist, I consider myself a patriot. I really believe what our federal Constitution stands for. The great achievement of the United States of America is an unparalleled standard of living for the average citizen,
and extraordinary freedom from tyranny.
Back when my wife and I were homeschooling our children, we taught them the Pledge of Allegiance ourselves.
But I have a real problem with this new law. How do we square a pledge to a nation guaranteeing "liberty and justice for all" when we require our children to stand and make public statements of faith, or risk ostracization and ridicule? (Yes, parents may request that their children be excused. And how, do you suppose, those children will feel
every day in class?)
One could argue that such statements are meaningless -- but clearly the people who passed this law think the pledge means a great deal.
I wonder what they would make of this statement, in 1950, by United States President Harry Truman, "Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country
where everyone lives in fear."
I'm not opposed to the Pledge of Allegiance, so long as it is truly voluntary. Free people make proud declarations of their faith and their allegiance. Slaves say what they must.