Award-winning novelist Joyce Carol Oates was roundly criticized after posting controversial remarks about the Pledge of Allegiance and schools in the South.
"In all my years of being in school as a student & being a teacher I have never once witnessed anyone pledging allegiance to a flag. Maybe some schools in the South? Certainly not mainstream America. Sounds like an old rerun of 'Gunsmoke,'" Joyce Carol Oates tweeted Saturday.
The Academy of Achievement calls Oates, a prolific author and National Book Award Winner, "America's Foremost Woman of Letters." She received the National Humanities Medal for a lifetime of contributions to American literature in 2010 during the Obama administration.
Twitter users were quick to correct and challenge 84-year-old Oates despite her undisputed literary bona fides.
"My kids do it everyday in Virginia. Perhaps you live in a cave?" said one.
"My kids' school does it (in the very well-off suburbs of Washington DC.)," said another.
"California Education Code § 52720 has required a daily patriotic exercise such as reciting the Pledge in public schools since 1976," said a third.
One Twitter user called the assumptions on which Oates' remarks were based "ugly and bigoted."
Not to outdone, Oates doubled down. Retweeting a person who called the practice "stupid," Oates suggested a "zealous patriotic response to 9/11" might explain the common practice.
"Especially when everyone felt relatively helpless, traumatized by the terrorist attack, uniting students in pledges to a flag would seem to have a positive effect," she wrote.
Oates said she was "sure" that her high school in an "affluent suburb of Buffalo" did not require the recitation until "possibly after 9/11."
Yet again, she appeared to continue laboring under a faulty assumption that requirements involving reciting the Pledge are somehow limited to schools in the South.
A few hours after her original tweet, Oates' tone appeared to soften a bit. She acknowledged respondents' many corrections on pledge-related practices in the past. Apparently unclear on modern day practices, however, she then asked questions about whether reciting the Pledge of Allegiance daily in school is common today.
Schoolchildren daily reciting the Pledge of Allegiance 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 with no policy on reciting the Pledge are Wyoming, Vermont, and Hawaii.
Oates is currently a lecturer with the rank of professor at Princeton University's Lewis Center Program in Creative Writing in New Jersey.
New Jersey law mandates that boards of education require pupils to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance every school day, according to FindLaw. Students who "have conscientious scruples against such pledge or salute" are exempted from the requirement.
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