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Famous American Novelist Roundly Criticized for Remarks on Pledge of Allegiance, Southern Schools

Award-winning novelist Joyce Carol Oates came under fire after publishing controversial comments about the Pledge of Allegiance and Southern schools.

“In all my years of being in school as a student and as a teacher, I have never once seen anyone swear allegiance to a flag. Maybe some schools in the South? Certainly not in North America. Sounds like an old rerun of ‘Gunsmoke.'” Joyce Carol Oates tweeted on Saturday.

In all my years of being in school as a student and as a teacher, I have never seen anyone swear allegiance to a flag. maybe some southern schools? certainly not mainstream America. it looks like an old “Gunsmoke” rerun.u201d

— Joyce Carol Oates (@Joyce Carol Oates) 1682795854

The Academy of Achievement calls Oates, a prolific National Book Award-winning author, “America’s foremost woman of letters.” He received the National Humanities Medal for lifetime contributions to American literature in 2010 during the Obama administration.

Twitter users were quick to correct and challenge Oates, 84, despite his undisputed literary bona fides.

“My kids do that every day in Virginia. Maybe you live in a cave?” said one.

“My kids school does (in the very affluent suburbs of Washington DC.),” said another.

“California Education Code § 52720 has required daily patriotic exercise such as reciting the Pledge in public schools since 1976,” said a third.

One Twitter user called the assumptions underlying Oates’ comments “ugly and bigoted”.

Not to be outdone, Oates doubled down. Retweeting one person who called the practice “stupid,” Oates suggested that an “enthusiastic patriotic response to 9/11” might explain the common practice.

“Especially when everyone was feeling relatively helpless, traumatized by the terrorist attack, uniting students in pledges with a flag would seem to have a positive effect,” he wrote.

This might explain it: a zealous patriotic response to 9/11. nEspecially when everyone was feeling relatively helpless, traumatized by the terrorist attack, uniting students in pledges with a flag would seem to have a positive effect.u201d

— Joyce Carol Oates (@Joyce Carol Oates) 1682807861

Oates said she was “sure” her high school in a “wealthy suburb of Buffalo” didn’t require the recitation until “possibly after 9/11.”

Once again, he seemed to continue to labor under the mistaken assumption that requirements involving reciting the Pledge are somehow limited to Southern schools.

I’m pretty sure my high school in an affluent suburb of Buffalo didn’t require it until possibly after 9/11, many years after I went there. promise appears to be a local option in 2023, at least in non-Southern states.u201d

— Joyce Carol Oates (@Joyce Carol Oates) 1682811773

A few hours after his original tweet, Oates’ tone seemed to soften a bit. He acknowledged the respondents’ numerous corrections to past pledge-related practices. However, apparently unclear about current practices, he then asked questions about whether it is common practice to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school today.

Many respondents to this tweet say that yes, they did have to “pledge allegiance” to the US flag at school. is it still required today? guess it’s state by state? public school? private? a parish school day begins with prayer too.u201d

— Joyce Carol Oates (@Joyce Carol Oates) 1682807560

School children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance daily is quite common. Students are required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in 47 states, with opt-out exemptions varying by state, WVIB reported. The three states without a policy of reciting the Pledge are Wyoming, Vermont and Hawaii.

Oates is currently a full professor at the Lewis Center Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University in New Jersey.

New Jersey law requires boards of education to require students to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance every school day, according to FindLaw. Students who “have scruples of conscience against such pledge or salute” are exempt from the requirement.

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