Written in response to his daughter coming home from school as a child so proud to have learned the Pledge of Allegiance, but without any understanding of what the words meant, the story illustrates with devastating clarity how quickly cherished ideals can be broken down.
It takes place in what seems to be an elementary school classroom. America has been taken over. The teacher is replaced by someone who is to instruct the youth, and in the course of about twenty-five minutes, this new teacher manages to deconstruct the students’ beliefs to an extent that they end the story cutting the American flag into pieces, because it belongs to all of them, so they should be able to share it.
This story cut me to my core as a child, because the words and tools used by the teacher to change the minds and hearts of the children would work. I see them working. I feel like America is that classroom, and we’re being taught that America means something else.
And just like those children, many of us are believing it. Enough to cut the flag into pieces. Enough to slice up our country into a mockery of what I was taught it was supposed to mean.
In many ways The Children’s Story shook me more than the dystopias of my college days: Brave New World, The Handmaids Tale, We, 1984. More troubling because all of those seemed unlikely and far away. Too implausible. The Children’s Story shook me because I felt like it could happen.
Right now, I’m forced to wonder—is it already?