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Port: Don't blame anyone but the Fargo School Board for this Pledge of Allegiance mess

Let's not forget who it was that thought it a good idea for the school board to open this front in the culture war. Serving on a school board is not a license to indulge in personal political vendettas.

Fargo School Board member Seth Holden, left, declines to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance with the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Color Guard at the Tuesday, April 12, 2022, meeting. The board will no longer recite the verse after it rescinded the motion on Tuesday, Aug. 9, voting in favor of removing it.Michael Vosburg/The Forum
Fargo School Board member Seth Holden, left, declines to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance with the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Color Guard at the Tuesday, April 12, 2022, meeting. The board will no longer recite the verse after it rescinded the motion on Tuesday, Aug. 9, voting in favor of removing it.
Michael Vosburg / The Forum
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MINOT, N.D. — Members of the Fargo School Board decided to pick a culture war fight. They axed the Pledge of Allegiance from their meetings, and then they reaped the whirlwind.

Some of the criticism they've received has been measured and reasonable. Much of it — that which came from people ranting about "communists" and "libtards" — was not. But that's not news. We live in a digital age where everyone is more empowered than ever before in history to broadcast their views to large audiences, and what we've learned is that many of these people don't have anything to say that's worth listening to.

So it goes.

But let's not pretend like any side of this sorry spectacle has a monopoly on stupidity.

We have to ask why the school district chose to pick this fight in the first place.

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A seat on a school board is an opportunity to serve the taxpayers by promoting competent and efficient education for a community's children.

It is not a license to indulge in personal political vendettas.

Whether or not the Fargo School Board begins its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance is perhaps one of the least important issues facing Fargo and its schools. Yet, pathetically, for many in Fargo, it may be the only story they read about the school board this year.

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But let's be clear about who gets the blame for this: It lays with the school board, not the people reacting to the school board.

Yesterday, Gov. Doug Burgum called for legislation to ensure that school students and citizens who serve on governing boards have the opportunity to recite the pledge. Some lawmakers, like Sen. Scott Meyer of Grand Forks and state Reps. Pat Heinert of Bismarck and Todd Porter of Mandan, were already working on this issue and will coordinate their efforts with the governor's office.

In light of this news, the school district is, today, looking at walking back their decision to ban the pledge at school board meetings .

"The action taken at the meeting was not to negate the Board’s support of patriotism, the love of one’s country or support of the flag of the United States," a memo from board president Tracie Newman states. "However, the amount of feedback has made it evident that correcting notions to comprehensively reflect Board decision will divert even more staff and Board time and resources away from preparing for the start of the 2022-2023 school year."

Certain commentators, particularly those inclined to be hostile toward our state's Republican leadership, have chosen to view this as a threat to the Fargo School District.

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They're casting it as "retaliation."

That's a trailer load of nonsense.

Let's remember who picked this fight.

Let's not forget who it was that thought it a good idea for the school board to open this front in the culture war.

Certain members of the Fargo School Board decided to stick a thumb in the public's collective eye, and now we're supposed to believe they're the victims of the recrimination inspired by their own actions?

I hate the culture war.

I resent that so much of our political bickering revolves around one side trying to use the power of government to impose its preferred cultural norms on the other side.

The trap we fall into is believing that one culture warrior — the one promoting the cultural norms we prefer — is better than another.

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They're not. Not one bit of this is helpful for our schools, or our communities, or our democratic republic.

The last Fargo school board election was a contentious one that was very much centered on the culture wars around issues like the pandemic and critical race theory. When the left-leaning candidates mostly won those elections, we were assured by some commentators that the adults were now in charge in Fargo.

And now here we are, fighting like children over the pledge of allegiance while Fargo's schools want leadership.

The school board should walk back their policy, and then get to work on the new school year.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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