Join 3,554 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


NOT just running this up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes it...
May 3, 2011 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Leave it to us to cause a kerfuffle just before the elementary school spring concert this Friday! My daughter, who's seven and in first grade, is in tears because we, her parents, asked her to modify a movement in her performance and the teacher's response was for her to just do as she's instructed (as reported by our daughter and taken with a grain of salt) because "I'm the one that's teaching here."

No doubt that countless other people the world will be subjected to school childrens' earnest performances of Waving Flag (the Official World Cup Theme Song) for years to come. This year it's our daughter's class' turn to perform it on Friday night, wearing heritage costumes and of course, waving flags. We're in Canada, but she's chosen to feature the Scottish part of her heritage and will be kilted up and waving Saint Andrew's Cross. We live in Toronto, and her school is gentrifying, while still very multi-cultural in its makeup, but for the sake of representing this visually with a wide variety of flags, more obscure choices have been encouraged, hence her choice though I'm aware that the Union Jack is more common today.

They've been working on this for weeks. It's supposed to be a secret, somewhat, so that parents will be surprised and hopefully pleased and not sick to death of the song before the show - but she was practicing it the other night, and I noticed her doing a movement with her little 6" X 9" stick flag, where she swept the flag in a large circle, and at the lower part, the flag was dragged along the floor.

I corrected her, explaining to her about flag etiquette and protocol and in keeping it simple told her that if at all possible, flags should never touch the floor. I suggested that she could do the movement as best possible without that part.

So, she tried that today - and was corrected. Now she is a sensitive soul - but knowing her lovely but firm teacher, I can imagine that after a chilly, rainy day with twenty kids and a few who are live ones on a good day, the teacher may have sounded a little sharp. But what came home, in between the tears and blubbering was that the teacher required her to do it even after my daughter tried to assert that she knew it was wrong because her mommy checked, and was yelled at, with, as I'd said: "I'm the one that's teaching here."

So, while I'm sure that there has been some disrespect to the various stick flags already - though we carried ours carefully in, I've seen them being walked down the hall all bundled in a tote bag - I'm not sure how far to push this. But I'm pretty sure sweeping flags along the floor is on the other side of the boundary I have in regard to this matter.

I was raised with flag etiquette as part of school and Camp Fire girls and as part of my family upbringing, and this really rankles me; my Canadian husband agrees that it's not right and wants her to do the right thing too. We do get that there will be some errors made, because kids are kids and stuff isn't perfect and it's enough to hope that nobody loses an eye with the little wooden sticks. But I am pretty sure, unless convinced otherwise, that not dragging flags on the ground for the sake of a Spring Concert dance movement is a hill I'll willingly mount with my husband beside me in making sure our daughter does what's right. That is, if this is as big a deal as I'm making it out to be. So my question: Is it as big a deal as I'm making it out to be?

This brings me to: I happen to be hosting a committee meeting tonight for a few parents at the school, and they're reasonable people that I like and trust. I'll be running this past them. Do I rally the troops?

And then, considering the consensus: Do I confront the teacher first, knowing that my child tried to advocate for herself and was shut down, or do I go directly to the Principal? Do I print out pages from the most authoritative sources and march in there? And in that case what would be those sources? I could, perhaps, go to the extreme of pulling my kid and thus devastating her temporarily - or I could require and assert that my kid do what we believe is right, despite what the teacher said and risk animosity...

Or, do I say "Eh, well, it's just the Spring Concert and nobody else seems to care but me" and let it go?
posted by peagood to Human Relations (71 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is not a big deal. Do not put your child in the middle of this. Do not put other parents in the middle of this. Let it go. You'll laugh about it in ten years.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:39 PM on May 3, 2011 [45 favorites]


Do I rally the troops?

And then, considering the consensus: Do I confront the teacher first, knowing that my child tried to advocate for herself and was shut down, or do I go directly to the Principal? Do I print out pages from the most authoritative sources and march in there? And in that case what would be those sources? I could, perhaps, go to the extreme of pulling my kid and thus devastating her temporarily


To this moderate-liberal American northeasterner, if you did this, I would think you were a nut. I think the best thing here is to come off as being reasonable, not as a nut.

Why can't you just go to the teacher and calmly, rationally explain that you think it's important to teach your daughter to handle national flags respectfully? What's wrong with starting there?
posted by Ashley801 at 1:40 PM on May 3, 2011 [13 favorites]


Oh leave it alone. For one thing, it doesn't even look like it's against the code, which prevents allowing your flag to be "dragged on the ground", where it sounds like the movement is more "sweeping across the ground". Is this a semantic point? Sure, but you want to make a HUGE DEAL out of your reading of that point, which is not my reading of that point, which implies more careless dragging behind than artful dancy sweeping. You say "if at all possible, flags should never touch the floor", and you say you checked, well that link you provided says nothing about, say, placing the flag on the ground, only dragging, so it's really hard to argue that you are 100% in the right here.

Also, this is flag etiquette, not flag SUPER ULTIMATE LAW. Does the school require all other etiquette to be followed to a T at all other times? Would you want them to? This is literally 2 seconds of a dance move, and you want to meet with the principal about it and kick up a big fuss? Let it go.

Also, from a personal standpoint, I HATE flag etiquette. I think a flag should be regarded as a simple symbol, and actually take offense to the idea that a flag is some almost-holy icon that should be "respected". I don't agree.
posted by brainmouse at 1:41 PM on May 3, 2011 [39 favorites]


Or, do I say "Eh, well, it's just the Spring Concert and nobody else seems to care but me" and let it go?

This. I understand the sentiment, but the flag is an inanimate object and your child is your child.
posted by KathrynT at 1:41 PM on May 3, 2011 [41 favorites]


Jesus, I can't imagine anything good would come of you rallying the troops or marching into the principal's office without at least trying to have a civil conversation with the teacher first. You say that her teacher is "lovely but firm" - she doesn't sound like some jerk who needs to be put in her place, she sounds like a frazzled teacher who was confronted with a child changing something last minute in a production that's probably been a pain in the ass who probably said something like "My mom said to." when asked why she was changing it.

Not everyone is raised with flag etiquette - I have vague memories of something about treating the flag with respect but that's about it. Have a reasonable adult-to-adult conversation with her teacher explaining what your deal is, but if she's not willing or not able to change it for some reason, let it be.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 1:43 PM on May 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is seriously not a big deal. Please back off of this. It's only going to upset and isolate your daughter, and it's going to put you off on the wrong foot with the school forever.

One day, god forbid, if your child is being bullied, or has an abusive teacher, or some other school horror occur, you don't want to walk into the school to talk to the administration and have them look at you and think, "I can discount half of what these people say. They lost their shit over a flag."
posted by headspace at 1:43 PM on May 3, 2011 [21 favorites]


Does your daughter want you to get this "corrected", or does she want you to move on and just let her get through her performance?

FWIW, I learned flag ettiquette too, in the context of presenting the flag, NOT in the context of a performance piece that is already probably being disrespectful (are you keeping the flags in the proper order of precedence, for example? I doubt it)
posted by muddgirl at 1:45 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


You really want to plant your flag on this hill? Sorry for the bad pun. The teacher is really in charge here, let it go and don't put your kid in the middle of something that you can bring up with her in private later on. Your kid is probably nervous enough as it is.
posted by TheBones at 1:45 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


But I am pretty sure, unless convinced otherwise, that not dragging flags on the ground for the sake of a Spring Concert dance movement is a hill I'll willingly mount with my husband beside me in making sure our daughter does what's right.

The important question here is why you want your daughter to "do what's right."

If it's because you think that it will teach your daughter an extremely valuable lesson of some sort (like, for example, not letting your daughter dress up as a racist stereotype in a school play even if her teacher says to), then this may well be a hill for you to die on.

If it's because it contradicts something that you care strongly about but is ultimately irrelevant to your daughter's life (like, for example, not letting your daughter recite an abridged version of the Gettysburg address in the school play even if her teacher says so), then back off.

You make the call.
posted by googly at 1:46 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't "confront the teacher." Do talk to the teacher.

I can't speak to Canada, but in the US many people would be very upset at a dance routine that included dragging flags over the floor. You'll be doing the teacher a favor by mentioning this to her.

If she declines to make any changes after she's heard from you, leave it be.

Don't involve your daughter at all. You shouldn't be putting her in the middle of a disagreement between two adults.
posted by alms at 1:46 PM on May 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's a piece of cloth being waved around by a seven year old girl in a school play. Your daughter is already upset by this.

Let it go. Your daughter does not want to die on this hill and it's unfair of you to use her as a pawn in this.
posted by Solomon at 1:48 PM on May 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also --

Do I confront the teacher first, knowing that my child tried to advocate for herself and was shut down


This doesn't really seem like your child advocating for *herself,* as much as your child doing her best to advocate for your side in a disagreement you're having with another adult. I don't think this is ever a good position for her to be in or to be put into.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:51 PM on May 3, 2011 [42 favorites]


My first reaction was to tear the teacher a new a**hole for yelling at your kid. I don't think that's appropriate and I also think "because I'm the one teaching here" is a lousy justification for anything. Calmly and rationally should probably be tried first though. Those tend to work out better.

That being said, I really can't fathom why you chose your daughter to fight the battle for you in the first place. If you had a problem with the routine, you should have talked to the teacher. You modified your daughter's performance of the routine and then just sent her in there to be corrected and then put her on the spot to justify the modification.
posted by cali59 at 1:52 PM on May 3, 2011 [14 favorites]


Odds are the teacher really doesn't know flag etiquette. (I was taught it in school, and it's surprising how many otherwise hardcore-more-patriotic-than-thou people are completely ignorant of it.) In my personal experience as a smarty-pants kid, some teachers really hate to have their ignorance brought to their attention. ( Not the good teachers, mind you.) I'd be more upset about the teacher not saying "I don't know, let's look it up tomorrow during library time!" or some such than about the actual flag etiquette. If you're going to talk to the Principal, talk about that.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:54 PM on May 3, 2011


I agree with alms. You definitely should say something to the teacher, and encourage your daughter not to drag her flag on the floor. What the other kids do is up to them.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:57 PM on May 3, 2011


Do you seriously care about flag etiquette that much, or is this just about being right?

Teachers are humans. They're wrong about some stuff, and have bad days when they're busy or short-tempered. Your daughter learned an relevant lesson from you about flag etiquette, but she's in a situation where she can't really do what she ought (again, this is flag etiquette, not flag SUPER ULTIMATE LAW).

I think it's more important to teach her how to defer to others gracefully (when you can't do things quite the way you know you ought to) than it is to teach her that being RIGHT is the most important thing ever.
posted by hermitosis at 2:00 PM on May 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


If the teacher can't or won't change their mind about it, perhaps work out something. Explain the rules of flag etiquette to your child, but if she can't avoid dragging it on the floor for her routine, maybe say it's okay this time because there's no other option? You did say if at all possible, don't let it touch the floor.
posted by Heretical at 2:03 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think having high expectations of how small people will manage to carry around large bits of cloth is one way to be disappointed. Acting on that disappointment is probably a really good way to ensure this particularly performance is never repeated in the school again. For the sake of all the other 7.5 year old children that will ever be at your kid's school, this is probably a good thing, but gee, really, what a thing to take a stand on.

Other posters have mentioned bullying and racism. There's gender inequities, all kinds of prejudice, enforced religious education, phys ed teachers who don't understand disabilities - a million things for you to take up your cudgel over. If this is still one of them to you, maybe you need to recalibrate your outrage. What if you didn't know about flag etiquette? What if that part of your education had been skipped? You, your partner, your kid, your kid's teacher - you'd all be happier right now.

What are you teaching your daughter? That strict obsolete archaic rules about how to treat particular pieces of cloth outweight the feelings of human beings? That being right is more important than getting a job done, or being kind?
posted by b33j at 2:07 PM on May 3, 2011 [32 favorites]


My first reaction was to tear the teacher a new a**hole for yelling at your kid.

I'll bet $5 that the teacher didn't "yell" at the child. Very often ANY kind of correction from an authority figure is later described as "getting yelled at" even by supposed adults. And I'm sure the "I'm the one that's teaching here" came in response to "But my mommy said _______."

And to be fair, the teacher is the one who's teaching there. One of the lessons being taught is about different authority figures in different situations.
posted by General Tonic at 2:15 PM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Judging by my experience with teachers so far (two girls in 2nd and 1st grade), this sort of thing will come up again and again. In our case, a notable instance involved a very obviously wrong answer being the "correct" one on a quiz and half the class got it wrong.

There were two approaches to take. One, which many parents did, was to send notes in to the teacher explaining why the wrong answer was wrong. This didn't work, the teacher got defensive, and stuck to her side.

The other approach, the one I took, was to teach my own child not only why the right answer was right, but about human nature. We had a long discussion about how teachers can be wrong, how sometimes you have to accept it in the name of making everything else go smoothly, etc. She will only have that teacher for a year, but the lesson could last forever.

I don't think you did anything wrong, but it is probably time to drop it and just talk to your child about the situation and make the best of it.
posted by ydant at 2:17 PM on May 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hi, former protocol officer here!

First off, flag etiquette is a set of guidelines for how to handle the flag in ceremonial contexts. It's not law, as others have stated, but it is often taken extremely seriously by people who were taught it as though it were law.

While your daughter's teacher is technically in the wrong for allowing the flags to touch the floor, it's not like there's a fine for doing so. In protocol we used to joke about the "flag police", whose policing powers were exactly zero.

All that said, the best way to approach the teacher, if you feel strongly enough about this, is to point out that it's technically incorrect according to flag etiquette, and that you are doing her a solid by pointing it out prior to the performance, so as to spare her the shit storm she could get afterwards when other parents and grandparents see the treatment of the flags. Characterize it as preventative maintenance that will spare her exasperating explanations that may or may not involve the principal later, and I think you'll get more traction.

If you feel strongly enough about this to pursue this course of action.
posted by LN at 2:17 PM on May 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


"I'm the one that's teaching here."

There's being human. "Oops, I dropped my keys."

And there's being incompetent. "I'm the one that's teaching here."

That's an unprofessional reaction to a child asking questions and seeking clarifications. You're a teacher. You are not an auteur. It's like a baseball game -- we're here to see the players, not the umpire.

School teachers aren't held to high enough standards, IMO, and bright lines need to be drawn around the incompetent that think classrooms are akin to fiefdoms.

Talk to the teacher. "My daughter came home crying that she had been reprimanded. What happened?"

Likely, you will get some variant on the story. Your daughter may be flat wrong in her interpretation, and now you have, as they say, a teachable moment for your daughter.

But if it were me, and I got a whiff of incompetence, I'd very calmly say something calm and firm, such as, "It sounds to me like you did XYZ. I don't think XYZ is appropriate. Next time, please do something else."

That's it. No clarifications. No apologies. No hemming, hawing or equivocating. No subjective arguments about flag etiquette. Only objective, measurable feedback about classroom management.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:21 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, thanks all - I'm not babysitting, really. I just popped back after answering another question, and can't resist looking at them as they come in - I swear!

I will talk to the teacher tomorrow, nicely, as I also work in the school, where it's hard to separate workpeagood from parentpeagood there. The fact that I often supervise her child as part of my job makes this touchier, and I try to avoid confrontation. Actually, and thanks for your stellar answer b33j, I work really really hard in my positions at the school to bring better techniques for dealing with bullying and racism and being sensitive to our students and have been in a state lately about such things. This may have been the last straw, and I needed some perspective. I will approach it not as the "flag police", but as a concerned parent who wants to err on the side not offending anyone. Even if I'm the only one offended.

We talked with our daughter about to show respect by not letting the flag touch the floor, and told her she didn't have to say anything, just do what was respectful. She was called out for it. We did not send her in to fight our battle - she chose, in that moment, to speak up and while I understand the response, I also understand the nuance because as I've said - I work in the school and I know this teacher as a co-worker as well as a parent who is there daily.

I assure you, it is not quite sweeping - it's dragging and I do believe it's disrespectful to eveyone's flags, and wasn't going to re-direct the whole play - just what our kid does. It is important to my husband and I to help our daughter with a valuable lesson in doing what's right even when it's hard, and we would extend it to defacing it or to using it disrespectfully in other ways as is given in examples. I can be a bit of a right-fighter, but I've already conceded a few things and there is something in me that's is really, really bothered by not erring on the side of the respectful thing to do.

As far as order of presentation, I know that's a scramble. I was differentiating respect and etiquette versus protocol, and gave up on protocol. I was one of the kids at school who was on the flag team, and raised and lowered the flag every morning and took it seriously. Part of me is shocked at those who talk through the anthem every morning too, and I'm a shusher.

Considering the teacher has already not allowed my child "the right to pass and the right to choose" as her school touts as part of the Tribes thing they do, I'm feeling a little marchy inny about that, and will have gotten over that by tomorrow - but I think upon reading your answers that I'll let her know that I also need her not to contradict what we hope to instill in our child, which is respecting symbols that are important to other human beings. I think that is the kind thing. I don't want her to disregard authority, but I don't mind letting her know that she has the freedom to question it, even at seven.

I respect your answers, and thank you for them and apologize for sounding a little too strident. Perhaps it's the recent political and historical events; and the elections here - but symbols, even little bits of cloth, mean things to people and I'm surprised to find out that it actually does mean something to me and I swear I'm not grumpy at my child for choosing the Scot side over my Polish/Italian/American side. This goes for any symbol. I will temper my response to the teacher, and I'll behave. Thank you again.
posted by peagood at 2:23 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I would do (and maybe someone said it above, I've only read about half of the responses) is explain to your daughter that while flag etiquette says one thing, her teacher says another. I would let her do the routine in the way she's been taught, but explain to her that it's not necessarily the correct way, and that in the future she should take care not to let flags drag on the floor.

I would also write a letter to the teacher. (My mom is a teacher, and I think a letter would be the way to go here. Teachers are usually very busy and overworked, and in-person chats always seem to come at the most inopportune times.) Anyway, write a letter to the teacher and explain that you saw your daughter practicing her flag routine and noticed that it breached flag etiquette. You simply corrected your daughter. The line was crossed when your daughter came home in tears. Kids shouldn't be so afraid of their teachers that they come home crying, regardless of what lesson was being taught. (And in this case, the "lesson" was on treating a flag disrespectfully.) Be polite, rational, and give options for resolution (e.g. "As a former Camp Fire girl, I would be happy to come in during a free period and give the class a color guard demonstration"). Hopefully this will show that you're not trying to subvert the teacher's authority, but just trying to make sure that your daughter is learning and feels safe in voicing her own opinions in class.
posted by phunniemee at 2:23 PM on May 3, 2011


My father is as liberal as they come (here in the U.S.) and he always taught me that it was important to treat the flag with respect. He always pointed out that it's wrong, for example, to leave a flag out in the rain, or wear the flag on your t-shirt. As a result I've got this kind of ingrained respect protectiveness about the flag that I can't help. I've got friends (my husband among them) who would think such things are silly, meaningless symbolism. But I understand where you are coming from.

I don't think you need to be confrontational (or involve your daughter), but just politely ask the teacher -- you know I noticed when (daughter's name) does her dance routine the flag tends to hit the floor. I was concerned that it might look disrespectful. Is there any way to modify the routine?
posted by bananafish at 2:27 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's key to me in all of this is that this concert is Friday. Friday! Even if you are right and somehow convince the teacher of that, what good can come out of it? It's awfully late to re-teach the routine in a meaningful way.

Also, seven year olds... they pick their noses, ask people why they're fat and look funny, interrupt mom and dad in the middle of an important conversation... so, not exactly fully informed about all the rules of society yet. While I realize the teacher may be wrong here, I really would suggest you focus your energy on something else right now.

I doubt you're going to see the change you want in time. And along the way you may stir up tons of hassle for you and your kid.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:46 PM on May 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Some teachers can be asses. I recommend you maintain a posture of "Of course you're the teacher, and it's your classroom, but of course you would welcome parent input and concern." After the concert, feel free to mention that you hate to see a flag knowingly on the ground, as it is commonly considered disrespectful, and you know the teacher would not knowingly countenance disrespect.

My son's education would have been better if I'd learned earlier that being an unholy bitch on his behalf was about the only thing our school district recommended. One reason to pay teachers well? So good ones stay and bad ones get edged out.
posted by theora55 at 2:48 PM on May 3, 2011


Flag ettiquite is different in different places. Sometimes it's OK for a flag to touch the ground. This isn't really one of those cases, but knowing that the prohibition is a little less than absolute might make you feel better.
posted by Jahaza at 2:48 PM on May 3, 2011


Maybe you could invite a veterans' group to talk to the school about flag etiquette at a time near an appropriate holiday.
posted by dragonplayer at 3:31 PM on May 3, 2011


Have you seen this routine on YouTube? The flags are twirled over the head and then around in front at a low level -- not on the floor, but perhaps 7 year olds are too short to accomplish this. This is the way the dance goes -- a dance featured for the world cup, viewed without outrage by millions of people. Really, this has nothing to do with flag etiquette, and everything to do with a popular song, and popular established dance performed to celebrate diversity. Think marching band flag Corp, not Camp Fire.
posted by Malla at 3:37 PM on May 3, 2011


I have a hard time getting my head around your willingness even to consider causing more drama and upsetting your child over this. I say let it go, completely, no more discussion with anyone.

If you pursue this, your already freaked-out child will have this as a major childhood memory. Is that what you want?
posted by Lizzle at 4:17 PM on May 3, 2011 [13 favorites]


It's the end of the school year, the teacher is worn to a frazzle, gulping her tranquilizers, and praying she'll make it in one piece to the last day of classes. This week, in addition to everything else she is supposed to be doing with her class, she has to rehearse the kiddies in the number for the Spring Concert! Perhaps in this light it's more understandable why she wasn't perfectly sweet and understanding when your daughter said "My mommy told me...." If I were you, I'd relax, cut her teacher a little slack, and let it pass. Spend you time and energies on your daughter. Teach her love and caring and what's important in life.
posted by exphysicist345 at 4:22 PM on May 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wow. FWIW, I live in Scotland and I really don't think anyone, anywhere in the UK would give the slightest toss about a flag touching the floor, Saltire or Union Jack, let alone in a school play. I'm completely and utterly mind-boggled by the whole question - I've never heard of such a thing as flag protocol and had no idea anyone had it in themselves to actually be offended by what happens to a bit of cloth, let alone to ruin their child's experience of a school concert by repeatedly raising it with the teacher. *Blinks repeatedly in astonishment*. I mean, really? It's cloth. And a bit of floor. And your daughter's already been in tears over it, and you're still pursuing it? What?!!!

Well.

Maybe it's a cultural, North American thing. But, really, don't go getting offended on behalf of anyone over here.
posted by penguin pie at 4:23 PM on May 3, 2011 [43 favorites]


I think it's silly to make a big deal about this. At some point, something genuinely important is going to happen and you'll be completely justified when you march in to the school to take issue with it...

...and you'll be dismissed as "that crazy woman who threw a fit about a flag being dragged on the floor in a school performance."

Don't be That Parent.
posted by DWRoelands at 4:29 PM on May 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'm glad you've decided to rein yourself in over this because it was madness. Let the teacher do her job and teach her class, it's hard enough without you butting in over nothing, and don't mortify your child in front of her friends and classmates like this ever again. You owe them both an apology, and can only hope the people you work with are equally forgiving because a lot of them are going to think you're a loon. As for what you were initially upset about, well there are no more patriotic Scots than their football supporters so try looking on youtube for the way they treat their beloved flag. Next time your daughter is really excited about doing something, try letting her enjoy it unencumbered by whatever it is you've decided to be offended about for the day.
posted by joannemullen at 4:33 PM on May 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


It seems to me that most of the time this teacher will be telling your daughter things that you do agree with, and it would be unwise to slip a wedge between your daughter's expectations of response and behaviour from you and the teacher unless you absolutely absolutely have to. Otherwise you put both your daughter and the teacher in impossible positions. Would you feel let down if you'd ask your daughter not to do something only to be overruled by your husband? It's a similar sort of thing, isn't it?

But I think penguin pie is on to something about differences of expectation around how flags are used and I mention this just in case the fact that it is a Saltire makes it different from any other flag. I'd be particularly wary of speaking for the Scottish as I'm English, but I don't think I have ever seen the two words 'flag etiquette' used together in the UK, and I would understand flag protocol to mean either how a flag is hoisted or which bit of the boat you should tie your ensign to.

There's a nice story here about cultural differences in the handling of flags: reading between the lines an American volunteer thought it sacrilegious that someone thought of just throwing an old flag away, while some local journalists made mild mischief over the fact that the flag had been burnt.
posted by calico at 4:57 PM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


(sorry - should have said - the linked story is specifically about the treatment of a Scottish flag rather than a vaguer 'aren't people and flags funny?' story)
posted by calico at 4:58 PM on May 3, 2011


This is not madness. It is a performance about multi cultural-ness, and your culture (among others) says "don't let the flag touch the floor".

This IS a hill to fight over. It is a legitimately offensive thing to enough people that it shouldn't be TAUGHT as the way to handle a flag. This isn't even a grey area. The teacher is wrong, and just giving up would teach your kid and the rest of the kids an unfortunate lesson: give up when confronted with a little adversity.

(Not to mention, your daughter is upset. All the more reason to correct the situation. It is the teacher's fault your daughter is upset, not yours. Letting it go seems worse for an upset child- she gets no example of how to resolve conflict.)

Anyone who dismisses you as "the crazy person who raised a stink about a flag" exposes THEIR biases and lack of character, not yours.
posted by gjc at 5:00 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


What penguin pie said. My reaction too as a Brit. Could not give a flying fig. Flag etiquette seems to be an American obsession because of its place in American mythology. I find it mystifying. Likewise Calico is more sensible. There is a cultural difference here.
posted by idb at 5:15 PM on May 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Considering the teacher has already not allowed my child "the right to pass and the right to choose" as her school touts as part of the Tribes thing they do, I'm feeling a little marchy inny about that

What are these two things? The word "choose" does not appear on the page you lined, and I'm not sure what they mean by pass on the page either. The right to pass your classes? The right to "pass" as a member of the dominant culture by not having your ethnic heritage explicitly pointed out to others?

respected for their different abilities, cultures, gender, interests and dreams..
Tribes is a step-by-step process to achieve specific learning goals. Four agreements are honored:
...the right to pass


Are you upset that your daughter has been made to choose an aspect of her ethnic background to portray on stage? That she could not pass as being of French heritage, or did not have a chance to choose the flag and costume of any country in the world?

Were the children offered the chance to choose whether or not to take advantage of this "right to pass" by not picking a flag from their own cultural background, versus the choice to have their own depiction of their cultural background respected by being allowed to choose a flag from a country where their ancestors originated? Is it possible that this choice was offered when practices were started and your daughter simply did not bring it up to you at the time because of the routine being "secret", and forgot about it in the interim?

Or is it the choice of the St. Andrews Cross over the Union Jack -- you refer to it as "her choice". Perhaps you are not so upset about her not being allowed the right to choose, as her being allowed to have the right to choose something other than what you would have picked.

As to the flag etiquette issue, you can teach her at home that people have different opinions about it (as the previous answers show), and that different countries have different traditions. Teach her that your own values on this are different, but don't go marching into her school to make a big issue of it.
posted by yohko at 5:24 PM on May 3, 2011


My sentiment is not new to this thread, but in case you're counting votes, here's another vote to cut your (child's) losses and let this one go.
posted by reeddavid at 5:43 PM on May 3, 2011


What penguin pie said. My reaction too as a Brit. Could not give a flying fig. Flag etiquette seems to be an American obsession because of its place in American mythology. I find it mystifying.

Surprise, surprise, people in different places have different customs and traditions. And calling it an "obsession" is pretty condescending, really. It's just a passed on tradition for some people. At any rate, OP, I think the best approach would be to explain to your daughter that different people and places have different ways of treating a flag. Let her know the rules you were taught, but also let her know that the teacher has different standards, and that it's okay to do as the teacher says in this instance.
posted by JenMarie at 6:09 PM on May 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


If she has the flag to celebrate her Scottish heritage, then she could follow Scottish rules as set by the Lord Lyon King of Arms, Scotland's chief herald. There's nothing in the Lyon court guidelines against touching the ground or dragging. If it was part of the Scottish tradition, Lord Lyon would mention it.
posted by Flitcraft at 6:15 PM on May 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


While I am well aware that many Americans are quite serious about their flag etiquette, in my experience as a Canadian, very few people care about that sort of thing. I'm guessing from your post, OP, that you weren't born in Canada. While obviously your husband is an exception, Canadians generally don't care much about flag etiquette. I suspect if you speak to the teacher, s/he will perceive you as a bit of a crank. While this may be past your personal boundary, it certainly isn't past any sort of societal norm. Please let this one go, for the sake of your kid, who really doesn't need to be caught in the middle of this.
posted by ssg at 6:27 PM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


One more vote for "let it go".

That is, let the flag thing go. You're going to look like a crank and you're not going to win and you're going to make life worse for your kid.

However, if it were me I might carefully approach the topic of how abruptly or rudely the teacher spoke to your daughter, after a while has gone by. If your daughter feels yelled-at, whatever that means to her, that's certainly a valid concern and something the teacher should actually want to know.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:42 PM on May 3, 2011


Well, as one who thinks parent outranks teacher, I would at least have a word with her about that part of it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:29 PM on May 3, 2011


This is, to be honest, totally loopy. There's being concerned about offending people, which is way overblown in this case (they're kids! My god!), and there's being personally offended. It sounds like both are happening here.

It's a flag. It represents a country, I guess, but it's not the country. I'm one of those Americans who couldn't care any less what people do to a piece of fabric, but even if I did I'd certainly consider the intentions to be more important than the "rules," which many, many folks don't know or care about. If I see someone angrily burning an American flag to make a point about hating the entire country, well, I could totally understand why a lot of people would be offended. But little kids clumsily dragging flags around does. not. matter. It's great to worry about paying respect to other peoples' beliefs, but there's a limit where they're just being completely insane, and at that point you really don't have to go out of your way to accommodate them. If anyone gets up in arms about a children's dance recital, that's very much their own problem.

My point is, you should let this go, but you should also spend some time reconsidering why this makes you so indignant. You have a chance here to have a number of valuable conversations with your daughter about respect for other cultures and how people can be offended by unintentional slights, but make sure you've got those ideas straight in your own head first. Figure out what you're fighting for.

She's a little kid and she's going to face bigotry in her life, she's going to see other people being racist or homophobic or otherwise awful to others, and it's clear from your post that you will want her to step in - and good on you for that. But don't muddle her ideas of right and wrong and respect for others up with borderline flag etiquette nonsense. Fight the important fights, and teach her to fight the important fights. You've already made it way too clear to her that some people get crazy about fabric, and that we should make an effort to accommodate various traditions, and now it's time to let this one go. Your intentions here are noble, but the end product is crazy times.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:31 PM on May 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


1. Flag etiquette doesn't apply to 6"x9" stick flags.
2. The Union Jack is not a suitable Scottish flag. Not to a Scot, anyway.
posted by rocket88 at 7:36 PM on May 3, 2011


peagood, I don't think you're crazy for feeling strongly about this. I think there are good and bad (and crazy over-the-top) ways to address it, sure, but you go ahead and feel indignant about it. To address what you're a kitty and a few others have said above, there is (to me) a huge difference between "someone angrily burning an American flag to make a point about hating the entire country" and "little kids clumsily dragging flags around," but not for the same reason.

If I see someone angrily burning an American flag, I'm bummed out because I think the person is misguided. But more than anything, it makes me proud that I live in a country where you can disrespect your country's flag, and the worst thing that will happen to you is that a few people watching are going to get indignant about it.

My point is that people have a right to make a choice about how they want to respect (or disrespect, or feel indifferent toward) their flag. And it is perfectly OK to want your child to know about your own cultural traditions toward your flag, because your child should get to make that choice for herself. Deciding to educate her about it is the right thing to do, especially since it's something that your family really believes in. Even though she's young, I think your daughter is perfectly capable of deciding for herself whether she wants to hold the flag up high or clumsily drag it around with the rest of her classmates.

(But, as I said in my above comment, I think the real issue here is that her teacher shot down her comments in class. The flag issue is your own personal choice and you should teach your kid what you feel is right. But a teacher making your daughter cry is another thing entirely, and should really be the focus of whatever discussions you have with the school.)
posted by phunniemee at 7:45 PM on May 3, 2011


Is it possible that the your daughter's perception/report of the exchange between her and teacher is different than that of the teacher's? Just ask what happened; maybe that will explain everything.
posted by Raymond Marble at 10:27 PM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Quick Question: is your kid a "good kid" - quiet, does work, doesn't get into trouble, a thinker? Not a trouble maker, doesn't get 'in trouble' for minor things like talking in class (as in "baby peagood and friend, please stop talking, this is quiet reading time") I was that kid most of the time- never ever "in trouble" like some of the other "live wires" or "chatter boxes".

So, having an argument with a teacher, particularly about something you've been told by your parents, even if it's pretty minor, would be tear-worthy for me at 7. ('The injustice of it all' kind of tears.) If you're never quietly reprimanded (because you don't need it) by a teacher, you don't build up any kind of thick skin about it.

So yeah. Flag issue not that big a deal to me, but thought I'd add something about the tears, which resonated with my memories of my childhood.
posted by titanium_geek at 3:39 AM on May 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


OK, I've got over my total astonishment and thought maybe I should be less outraged and more constructive. Your beliefs about the flag are obviously very important to you, but this won't be the only teachable moment in your daughter's life when it comes to flags. It's causing upset, so I suggest you let it go and return to it another time when the emotions have ebbed - and if you do, there are plenty of other valuable lessons she could learn here (most likely she'll just learn the first one if she's only seven, but that's the most important one):

1. That her mum and dad think her flag dance is the sweetest, cleverest thing they have ever seen in their whole lives.

2. That different people can have different opinions without fighting to the death - in fact sometimes letting the other person have their way is not a sign of lack of conviction, but of graciousness. It doesn't mean the strength of your own beliefs is dimmed one bit.

3. That national and religious symbols or icons can be very important, but if you let them become more important than what they represent - people - trouble will ensue.

4. That no principle should ever be held without a view to proportionality and context. There may be times and circumstances when standing up for your views on flag etiquette is the right thing to do. A play being put on by a class of seven-year-olds, which is making your little daughter cry, is not one of them.

What an interesting debate though. (That's sincere, not snark!).
posted by penguin pie at 3:44 AM on May 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


There is no way the teacher can change the performance that has been painstakingly and with great effort taught to a whole class of small children by Friday.

What will confronting the teacher achieve? It'd be nice to let her know that some people (including you) are offended by certain ways of treating a flag, because it'll help her when planning future performances for little kids. But if you do it before the performance, you're only going to add a heap of stress to her life and show your daughter that it's more important to be right than to show consideration and understanding for people who have different opinions.
posted by harriet vane at 3:55 AM on May 4, 2011


There is no way the teacher can change the performance that has been painstakingly and with great effort taught...

That's not really the point, though, is it? The issue isn't the level of effort the teacher put in (*), but that the teacher is teaching something that many people would find offensive, including a student and the parent(s) of a student.

(*) Though, the defensiveness of the teacher might be caused because the teacher is too invested in the stagecraft.
posted by gjc at 6:17 AM on May 4, 2011


I will talk to the teacher tomorrow, nicely, as I also work in the school, where it's hard to separate workpeagood from parentpeagood there.

Child of a teacher who had the same problem. Her coworkers, as human as she is, never did more than let an exasperated remark slip by mistake from time to time, but she gave them plenty of opportunities to make that mistake. It was no fun to read between the lines and learn about her workplace reputation. It was less fun to conclude it was deserved.

None of her individual interventions was as drastic as challenging a coworker over the choreography of an elementary school play, so the frequency mattered a lot. Maybe this is a one-off event for you, and the risk doesn't apply. Take it as a cautionary tale, then, for the next time something like this comes up. I hope things worked out here.
posted by Marty Marx at 7:37 AM on May 4, 2011


I'm guessing that if you're this offended about a flag touching the ground and willing to make this a hill you "willingly mount," that there are many, many other things that you also feel very strongly about and are willing to speak out against. I find it hard to believe that this flag issue really stacks up in the grand scheme of moral wrongs that you and your daughter are going to encounter. If you make a huge deal about this now (knowing that many reasonable people think you're completely overreacting), you're not going to be able to make a difference later, when the issue is more important. Instead, people are going to think you're just prone to drama. Hold your powder for the more important things.

I also think that, given the relative unimportance of this matter, you're failing to take responsibility for the position you put your daughter in. You've made this into an issue between her mother, her conscience, and her teacher. You try to push this off on your daughter by saying "We talked with our daughter about to show respect by not letting the flag touch the floor, and told her she didn't have to say anything, just do what was respectful. She was called out for it. We did not send her in to fight our battle - she chose, in that moment, to speak up." But she is only 7; she spoke up because she wants to do what she thinks is right, what you taught her. You put her in the middle of the conflict/power struggle between two adults on a relatively insignificant matter. That may be appropriate if this were about bullying, or about racism, or sexism, or even littering ... but not for a matter of "flag etiquette."
posted by yarly at 7:40 AM on May 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Again, thanks all. This has been much food for thought.

Last night I discussed this with a few of the moms from school, at my daughter's insistence. She came downstairs during the meeting and asked us to talk about it, unprompted. Two of the moms are in the class. One asserted that the teacher is known for having "the best" performances of the night, and can be very tense about them - they're a point of pride. Another pointed out to my daughter that other kids don't get to hold flags at all, and maybe she can switch (I learned she already thought of this herself, asked, and can't). Two moms have been on field trips with my daughter and this teacher, and know us both well, and pointed out that the teacher is excellent - there's no denying that - in particular with boys with behaviour issues, but not necessarily girls that also need more attention. They have seen her interact with littlepea without my being present, and, to answer this question:

Quick Question: is your kid a "good kid" - quiet, does work, doesn't get into trouble, a thinker? Not a trouble maker, doesn't get 'in trouble' for minor things like talking in class (as in "baby peagood and friend, please stop talking, this is quiet reading time") I was that kid most of the time- never ever "in trouble" like some of the other "live wires" or "chatter boxes".


She is a good kid - really. She does her work, she's progressing nicely and as she's been from babyhood, she's intense and sensitive and highly verbal for her age. We have expanded on her basic education as much as we can with travelling and reading and exposure to a wide variety of people and she brings a lot of that to the class, as I've learned from meetings and report cards.

Part of this issue is that we have what seem to be some old-fashioned standards and ideals and are, as I was called once by our local Councillor, "good citizens" and we are definitely old-fashioned. I volunteer a lot. And, I swear: We don't put elbows on the table; we give up our seats and hold doors and help elderly people cross the street; don't jaywalk or speed and obey bicycling by-laws and the three peagoods all stop and pick worms up off the sidewalk after it rains so they don't shrivel in the sun. BUT - we are not quiet, and we do think and research and talk things out and we do act, and we do question and that is tiresome to some people. And, it was pointed out to me last night that it's not always appreciated by this teacher partly due to the exhausting makeup of the rest of the class, where my daughter is in grade one of a one/two split and the demands of a new principal. Take, for example, when littlepeagood did a class project on her pet gecko, and all the kids had to tick a box whether their animal was a carnivore, omnivore or herbivore: She wanted to specify that her gecko is an insectivore and there was no box for that and she asserted that she wanted to write that in, and so I encouraged her to and she was able to defend it. I was there, she got choked up because it was stressful and felt confrontational - but the teacher said she didn't realize there was such a thing. It ended well, but it wasn't enthusiastically received.

To answer yohkho's points,

Tribes Learning Community was something our school used this year. The kids took it seriously, and morning announcements usually reinforce the agreements:

TRIBES COMMUNITY AGREEMENTS

Attentive Listening: To pay close attention to one another’s expressions of ideas, opinions and feelings; to check for understanding; and to let others know that they are being heard with your eyes, ears, and hearts

Appreciation/ No Put-Downs: To treat others kindly; to state appreciation for unique qualities, gifts, skills and contributions; to avoid negative remarks, name-calling, hurtful gestures and behaviours

Right to Pass: To have the right to choose when and to what extent one will participate in a group activity; to observe quietly if not participating actively; and to choose whether to offer observations later to a group when asked to do so

Mutual Respect: To affirm the value and uniqueness of each person; to recognize and appreciate individual and cultural differences and offer feedback that encourages growth; to respect yourself, others, and property

So, in this case, she feels she wasn't listened to, respected and she asserted her Right to Pass in how she wanted to participate and was put down.

And here is where I am going to get flamed (do people still get flamed?): We are somewhat privileged though by no means rich Caucasians in a neighbourhood we unintentionally joined in the gentrification of when we moved in ten years ago. I would be happier if it hadn't, actually. But, in working and volunteering in the school with the wide variety of multicultural students we have (approximately 210 students, with usually 30-40 from the nearby immigrant shelter system and two ASD and one behaviour class), I spend a LOT of time researching how to speak and treat and deal sensitively with each kid - and I know everyone's name by the time they hit first grade. I CARE, and want the best for all of them. Not just my best though - not MY agenda - which is why I reached out to you all and so I see the diversity in response will also likely reflect the diversity in the school.

But for my kid, I think we are going to assert that just because our beliefs aren't as visible as others, they're not less valuable. Part of her heritage that she values, as it's turning out, is that she has slept on it and really feels she wants to respect symbols that have meaning to other people, and to her.


Are you upset that your daughter has been made to choose an aspect of her ethnic background to portray on stage? That she could not pass as being of French heritage, or did not have a chance to choose the flag and costume of any country in the world?


NO. I am upset that she chose part of her heritage that she valued, and that once she learned that a certain action is considered disrespectful and wanted to do better, was disallowed. The country does not matter to us, the respect does.


Were the children offered the chance to choose whether or not to take advantage of this "right to pass" by not picking a flag from their own cultural background, versus the choice to have their own depiction of their cultural background respected by being allowed to choose a flag from a country where their ancestors originated? Is it possible that this choice was offered when practices were started and your daughter simply did not bring it up to you at the time because of the routine being "secret", and forgot about it in the interim?


The children were guided to make choices that would visually represent their diversity. She could have chosen from a wide variety of unspoken-for nationalities that are part of her heritage, and this was her choice. I also offered to pay for any flag for any kid that wanted one, and to pick them up from the flag store so that every child in the class had their choice. Some are not carrying flags at all.

Or is it the choice of the St. Andrews Cross over the Union Jack -- you refer to it as "her choice". Perhaps you are not so upset about her not being allowed the right to choose, as her being allowed to have the right to choose something other than what you would have picked.

I'm sorry, no again. When she came home with the request to bring a flag in, we researched her options and I did my best with teh Googles to explain what each flag represented and even what parts of the designs represented. She was aware, based on a few days spent looking through various sites, of what is correct and what is done and what is common and this was the choice she was proud of and happy with.

I am not a killjoy, and she will not be traumatized over this. But stuff doesn't always have to e easy and nice for kids, and so this isn't going to pass, thanks to much of the good advice here, which I'll work with. But, just as we play after school with the other kids and they do things that are against the Code of Conduct and their parents let them because it's not their priority and it seems harmless - I do not let her indulge because our family does have different standards. And so if all the other kids are going to go and jump off the roof of the storage unit, they're welcome to though I will hope that my kid knows not to because it's wrong, and abides with what the rules and our family has determined is the best practice.

Thanks again, every one of you.
posted by peagood at 8:12 AM on May 4, 2011


Peagood, I'd be curious to know what the other moms thought about the flag issue. Good luck dealing with this. It's obviously been stressful.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:44 AM on May 4, 2011


You still seem to be failing to see your role here. Your daughter did not spontaneously decide that "Part of her heritage that she values, as it's turning out, is that she has slept on it and really feels she wants to respect symbols that have meaning to other people, and to her." You taught her this. She didn't come up with it on her own. She's only 7. So I guess the upshot is -- are you content that you've put your daughter in the position of forcing an issue that's going to seem yes, ridiculous, and yes, killjoy, to her teacher and possibly classmates? Is the flag really that important to you?
posted by yarly at 9:33 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


yarly, I didn't wake up one day as a child and decide I wanted to start reading. My mom taught me how to read. Now I can decide to read or not read a book on my own. How the heck are kids supposed to make any choices at all if someone doesn't teach them that they do, in fact, have choices?
posted by phunniemee at 9:40 AM on May 4, 2011


Wow. FWIW, I live in Scotland and I really don't think anyone, anywhere in the UK would give the slightest toss about a flag touching the floor, Saltire or Union Jack, let alone in a school play. I'm completely and utterly mind-boggled by the whole question - I've never heard of such a thing as flag protocol and had no idea anyone had it in themselves to actually be offended by what happens to a bit of cloth, let alone to ruin their child's experience of a school concert by repeatedly raising it with the teacher

Yes, this. I am English, my boyfriend is Scottish, and I've also handled flag duties whilst in Girl Guides, which is possibly a similar thing to what your daughter is doing, except with less dancing. If the flag is hung upside down, maybe, but people don't get upset about it here - it's a symbol. The flag has a stronger symbolism in the US as you pledge allegiance to it, it's a symbol of the union and a reminder of the Civil War - perhaps this is why the actual flag, the cloth, is treated in this way there, but possibly not so in Canada.

I struggle as a British person to understand why it is this battle you are choosing to fight. Is it that you see a breach of etiquette and in The Way Things Should Be Done, or do you personally feel offended by the flag on the floor?
posted by mippy at 9:46 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


How the heck are kids supposed to make any choices at all if someone doesn't teach them that they do, in fact, have choices?

It's not that she's being taught to make choices in the abstract -- she's being taught something much more specific than that: that the flag touching the ground is a matter of utmost importance, worth fighting and causing disruption over. Or that any assertion of "values" is worth fighting for, regardless of how weighty that value is.
posted by yarly at 10:01 AM on May 4, 2011


I would just tell your daughter that since this is a show she should do as her teacher asks, just as if she were in a play acting a character who chewed with their mouth open. This defuses what I suspect is the real issue, that the teacher stupidly barked out that she, not you, was in charge. Give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. It's a tough job.

Conversely, you could sneak into the school, burn all the flags, and leave the flag etiquette book open to the page saying a flag that touches the ground must be burned ;-)
posted by xammerboy at 10:39 AM on May 4, 2011


Thanks, phunniemee, for what would be my answer to yarly. I do see my (and her father's) role here and am thinking and re-reading and guessing that in my more emotional first post it seems like the appearance of my pearl-clutching over flags on the floor is incomprehensible to those with a different background. It is not the flag touching the ground that has become the matter of utmost importance for her at this point, or us, her parents.

It is that when I brought to my daughter's attention that I'd learned in my youth that flags were not supposed to touch the ground, and we looked it up and had a talk about it - and she decided to assert this and felt unfairly diminished by her teacher as a result.

Just as her father and I learned not to talk with our mouths full or to cut in front of people in line and are passing that on to her, he and I have been careful on the rare occasions when we've had flags in our possession to be respectful of them. Just as we reduce and reuse and recycle and compost and use our turn signals and do all sorts of other things we've been taught are the right thing to do (and that we have learned to understand the value of, not just followed blindly). He and I are on the same page - we are not fetching torches and rounding up the villagers, but we are questioning whether we want to support her in asking for respect in this matter from the teacher just as in the school we respect and include other diverse traditions and cultures. Why is someone with an American cultural background who has expressed a desire about respecting her heritage's flag being repressed? (That isn't meant to be hyperbolic, but I'm serious. It would have stayed a small matter if the teacher would have accepted the less dramatic movement that would keep the flag off the floor; or contacted me rather than responding in a way that was at least insensitive if not harsh, to a kid.) For the record, it came out last night that she did approach the teacher on a break in practicing, and didn't interrupt the song with some grand, defiant proclamation. This was small, and the upset is in how she was answered as much as it is about how correct to be.

It is not of utmost importance - it is a courtesy, one that's losing ground as this discussion is proving - and it is important (not important in big black capital letters with shadows coming out) to our family on the same scale as sitting down to dinner every night and eating with utensils in a mannerly fashion is important. We get that other people eat with hands and bread in their mannerly fashion. We get that other families eat on the fly. We get that other families don't have a table to sit at. As it was said, wonderfully: We are having "valuable conversations with (our) daughter about respect for other cultures and how people can be offended by unintentional slights... Figure out what you're fighting for."

I have backed down from fighting, which I originally felt with not even the intensity of say, fighting for our school's healthy breakfast program - let alone "put your dukes up", thanks to the input. I don't want to disrupt or change what the teacher or other kids do - but I do intend to have a reasonable conversation with the teacher about how we do see that it is an American thing (flags being symbolic and treated in a certain way) and why my kid's professed desire to be more respectful is being discounted which contravenes the Tribes agreement she's been encouraged to practice all school year long.

The other moms and I agreed that the whole event is intended to be celebratory, and the responses ranged from "(sigh) Don't you get tired of caring about so many things that just can't be done well enough because of all the bureaucracy and constraints" to "Catch the teacher at a better time and just ask nicely - she's probably just stressed - it can't hurt" to "Well, you do what's right for your family, and I'm glad I don't have to think about it" to "Yeah, it could definitely offend some of the people there, and we wouldn't know about it until after. We had a complaint that we used caution tape to protect some blooming daffodils near the walkway, because it looked like a crime scene."

My kid, after two days now of going back and forth and discussing these answers with her (all sides - not just my favourites), would still would rather perform a more subtle motion where her flag is kept just off the ground, because, in seven year old terms, "the floor is pretty dirty, and that's not really nice". After two days of going back and forth, I'm going to reassure everyone here that I can type really fast - so that's why I tend to type a lot and type as I think - but this is on the level of importance in our family where say, we don't let our dog poop on people's lawns more than the level, say, where others keep Kosher or eat Halal. Let's put it on par with say, cel phone etiquette. We all have different expectations, levels of irritation and personal standards regarding it - as we all seemingly do with regard to flags. And so the teacher and I will talk, civilly. Don't forget - we're co-workers.

We get that the whole ceremony is celebratory and there is no harm intended - but when unintentional harm can be avoided, why not speak up?

Thanks again - this has been interesting.
posted by peagood at 11:00 AM on May 4, 2011


Well, again, I see this as not so much about the flag as it is your teacher hurting your child's feelings.

I say that as one who deeply remembers being a child and having teachers be an absolute ass to me.

Hopefully THAT is the point you will bring up to the teacher. It will mean a lot to your daughter if you do. And I don't care how stressed the teacher is, she is teaching seven year olds, and even if she didn't mean to be harsh, it wouldn't and won't kill her to take a moment and apologize to your kid for not listening to her and being rude to her.Because I don't give a rat's hiney about a piece of cloth but I care about your kid's heart.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:14 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


" Why is someone with an American cultural background who has expressed a desire about respecting her heritage's flag being repressed? "

If start calling this repression people are certainly going to be offended or at the very least, find you insensitive. Especially if you preface it with talking about how respectful you are of the multicultural backgrounds of everyone there and your economic status and etc. It's getting dangerously close to some sort of ridiculous reverse-racism charge.

I highly suggest not taking that approach. And yes, I am an American, born and raised, and have zero desire to police small children's flag ettiquite. I think it's inaccurate to portray it as an American concern.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:19 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Repression is not always REPRESSION. I apologize for choosing a loaded word. I wish there was an edit feature, as I realized too late someone would go there.

I meant it as in:

• inhibit the natural development or self-expression of (someone or something) : too much bureaucracy represses creativity.

We have already confirmed we are not being the flag police. It is a concern, which seems to come from my American upbringing, which she has come to share and it is not being considered as much as other things within that performance have been.
posted by peagood at 12:04 PM on May 4, 2011


" it is not being considered as much as other things within that performance have been."

I'm hearing basically that you don't think this is fair because there other cultural concerns/practices that have been honored/considered. Is that correct?

It might be time to put that in perspective in terms of the time that those things were brought up and the relative importance of being sensitive to, say, a First Nations families' traditions vs a white American/Canadian family's traditions.

It would also be important to think about the extent to which your culture and preferences are already honored in myriad ways throughout the school and throughout society at large in ways that might make it less important that they be consciously and carefully discussed in order to avoid offense.

The last thing I suggest considering is the manner and timing of the request. If there were things that were considered months ago and incorporated, it doesn't necessarily make it unfair (or due to the exact nature of your daughter's heritage) that something brought up during a rehearsal the week of the performance is not given the same amount of consideration.

Good luck with whatever you decide.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:22 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I strongly suspect that most of the responses you are getting are from Americans. So I'm not sure it's right to say this is an American cultural thing when plenty of Americans don't really care.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:33 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I think few Scots will be upset by their flag touching the ground - many people from the UK have said this, so I find it hard to see how this is 'respecting our heritage's flag' when people born and living in those nations get it printed on novelty beach towels and tan on it, vomit out of faces painted with it, and stick it on their car then throw it in the bin after the football or rugby tournament. You are applying manners and etiquette to your cultural heritage that simply does not exist in the country of origin.

I agree with other posters that it will really be difficult to express your annoyance as a denial or repression (for want of a less loaded term) of your culture.
posted by mippy at 1:46 PM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, to settle it, I spoke to the teacher this afternoon, among other things, about what I'm now thoroughly and completely aware of is a rare concern. I apologized for disruption or any disrespect to her teaching, and explained that after more consideration than she'd ever believe, that simply, it's to our seven year old's thinking (however we got to this point), not nice. The teacher clarified the movement, and it's silly but oh well - first and second grade productions are painted in broad strokes. Our daughter knows that some things can't be helped and she won't have consequences whatever happens. And all is is fine as long as whatever she does during the performance doesn't "stand out too much" - direct quote. Our daughter's also been moved to the back, because she's not getting some of the choreography. There are other seemingly more minor things within the whole performance (not cultural) that are getting more attention than their conversation that led to this whole post, so this one (among, no doubt, others) request's response seemed to have gotten an untoward answer and I did want to explore it. Yes, we're applying manners that don't seem to exist outside a very small population; but now the larger issue is that my kid isn't getting the moves regardless of flag etiquette - and the teacher's real concern, which was why she approached me first and expressed to me, is that her messing up really shows. And, as we've learned elsewhere, the thing is - our kid just plain has (whispers) dancing issues.

Thanks everyone - this is done.
posted by peagood at 2:51 PM on May 4, 2011


« Older A friend's site disappeared fr...   |  Are you a marine biologist who... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.