Reagan Says It’s Teachers’ Duty to Lead Flag Salutes
President Reagan, supporting George Bush’s attacks on Michael S. Dukakis, said today that teachers should be required to lead students in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance because “that’s what they’re there for.”
The President responded to a reporter’s question whether he thought Bush, the Republican presidential nominee, had “overdone” the pledge issue and impugned the Democratic candidate’s patriotism.
“I’ve kind of enjoyed it. I think it’s a fine thing if our children. . . . " Reagan replied during a White House photo session with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Reagan quickly added that he didn’t “see any reason why they should not learn the various customs and so forth that have to do with things of that kind.”
“I’ve seen many children today who don’t know what they’re supposed to do when the National Anthem is played or when the flag goes by,” he said. “I remember that I learned all that in school. Why shouldn’t they?”
The President was asked whether teachers should be forced to lead students in the pledge.
“That’s what they’re there for,” he shot back. “Their job is to teach something.”
Bush, who concluded his acceptance speech at the GOP National Convention by reciting the pledge, has tried repeatedly to make a campaign issue of the Massachusetts governor’s 1977 veto of state legislation that would have required public school teachers to lead their classes in reciting the pledge.
Dukakis said that he does not oppose classroom recitations of the pledge, but that he was advised by the state Supreme Court that the bill was unconstitutional. He has accused Bush of using smear tactics reminiscent of the McCarthy era in the 1950s.
At the photo session, Reagan also accused House Speaker Jim Wright of talking indiscreetly about U.S. intelligence secrets, but stopped short of denying Wright’s claim that the Administration used the CIA to foment civil unrest in Nicaragua.
Wright said Tuesday that Congress had received “clear testimony” that the CIA has employed agents covertly in Nicaragua to organize and promote anti-government rallies and protests, thus damaging long-term prospects for an accord between the ruling Sandinistas and the Contra rebels.
Asked about this today, Reagan said, “The reaction I have--and I think it should fit the Speaker also--there is no way we should talk publicly about intelligence operations of any kind.”
Asked if he disputed Wright’s assertions, the President said, “If I start going down that road, then I’m creating the same violation that he did.”