March 20, 2007

Senate Democrats Back Bill Allowing Foreign Flags In Colorado Schools On A Permanent Basis

Colorado's Senate Democrats want to change the law, allowing permanent displays of foreign flags, instead of temporary ones:
The Senate voted Monday to relax an earlier law meant to protect the American flag, giving initial backing to a measure that would allow schools and airports to keep banners of other countries on permanent display indoors.
. . .
Under the current law, foreign flags can be displayed only temporarily in public buildings. The bill would allow foreign flags to be permanently displayed inside public buildings as long as the U.S. flag was also included and displayed more prominently, following the federal flag code. Williams said schools and Denver International Airport must periodically move their foreign flags around under the current law in order to make them temporary displays.

Schools already must display a U.S. flag in each classroom, and that wouldn't change under the proposal (House Bill 1050). The revision remove a section that says people who display foreign flags anywhere where they know they could cause a breach of the peace can be charged with a petty offense. That carries a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in jail.

Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Northglenn, failed to convince senators to keep that section in. She said it would help protect the American flag from being subordinate to a foreign one.

"I'm just concerned that we want to protect our flag, the flag of the United States of America that many people right now are going through grave danger to protect," Tochtrop said.
The POW-MIA flag is an acceptable allowance, but the overwhelming non-necessity for permanent displays of foreign flags outside of reasonable places like an international airport reinforces the previous criticism of flag displays such as the one from Colorado world geography teacher Eric Hamlin. Why should taxpayer supported public buildings be permitted to display foreign flags on a permanent basis--what possible justification is there?

This move by Senate Democrats comes after the Eric Hamlin flag flap last August, where the teacher argued that pedagogical requirements called for foreign flags to be on display, before revealing the real reason for his flags:
A seventh-grade geography teacher at Carmody Middle School in Lakewood was suspended with pay Wednesday after he refused to take down foreign flags displayed in his classroom.

Eric Hamlin, 36, said the flags of China, Mexico and the United Nations were relevant to the unit on the fundamentals of geography he teaches in the first six weeks of the semester.
. . .
"Since flags are symbols of a nation and the people who live in that nation, if a flag of a foreign nation in a geography class can't be displayed, and only the U.S. flag can be displayed, we're sending the message that America is number one, everything else is below that," Hamlin said.
. . .
"The flags should be able to fly to celebrate diversity," Hamlin said.
The goal is "celebrating diversity" and ensuring that students don't think of America as number one--not the pedagogical excuse of trying to teach world geography. As we wrote last year:
Maps are fundamental to the study of geography. Flags are not. One might convey the entire meaning of a flag in a lesson that last no more than one single class period. Having taught at the university level, items such as flags or other visual materials usually require no more than a few moments of comment, before moving on. You do not learn the geographic position, importance, or "global perspective" of a country by viewing their flag for weeks at a time. "Cultural awareness", Hamlin's term, comes not from constant viewing of flags, but readings and other materials more suited to the study of other countries and cultures. Hamlin is being naive at best, and disingenuous at worst.

His true agenda, however, goes a bit beyond the mere display of flags in the classroom for any didactic purpose. Like Jay Bennish before him, Hamlin has other issues of concern.
The flags in question? A United Nations flag, the flag of China, and this flag:


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