November 01, 2002
Blast From The Past

The most curious thing about my hiring by the Rochester City School District was the last paragraph of my contract:

Oath of Allegiance

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of New York, and that I will faithfully discharge, according to the best of my ability, the duties of the position to which I am assigned.

I had thought loyalty oaths were as dead as the dodo and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Not that I had any objection at all to signing this one, except for a slight nagging feeling that I ought to read the state constitution before signing it (the oath, not the constitution). How common are they today?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at November 01, 2002 07:50 PM

Requiring an official to swear to uphold the constitution sounds perfectly reasonable to me. (Now if only we could do something drastic to congresscritters, presidents, and attorney generals who violate that oath.) You could argue about whether a schoolteacher is truly in a position to uphold, or not uphold, the constitution, but he certainly has plenty of chances to demonstrate the spirit of it -- and most of them fail terribly...

Posted by: markm on November 1, 2002 09:30 PM

"...and most of them terribly..."

I didn't realize a definitive study had been released indicating that over 50% of teachers did not demonstrate the spirit of the American constitution. Or is this just an example of anti-teacher prejudice that only serves to weaken the education system?

Posted by: Calvin Armstrong on November 1, 2002 10:13 PM

What weakens the education system is that we have made the mistake of allowing people with Education degrees to run it. There has never been a more worthless degree held by more complete imbeciles than the Doctorate of Education.

Posted by: Robin Roberts on November 1, 2002 10:59 PM

I had to swear an oath to preserve protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the State of Illinois when I was sworn into the Bar.

Posted by: Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 1, 2002 11:11 PM

You know, oaths just like that were put into place in the McCarthy era, and many people lost their jobs for refusing to take those oaths. They generally sued and got back pay and pensions restored and got their jobs back if they wanted them.

I remember it was in New York in particular that this happened. This was even discussed at some length by David Horowitz in his autobiography, Radical Son, since his parents were both schoolteachers in the State of New York, and were fired because they refused to sign. They refused to sign because they were loyal Stalinists, but in public they claimed to be upholding the 1st amendment and whatnot.

Interesting that such oaths are still in place.

Posted by: Dean Esmay on November 2, 2002 01:00 AM

The NYS Constitution is quite a piece of work. Like many state constitutions - not taking their cue from the federal constitution - it is loaded up with too many details. For example, Article 14 calls for keeping Adirondack Park "forever ... wild", which sounds like a good idea, except then they had to amend the constitution when they wanted to build I-87, or build a ski slope, or enter into land swaps. That section must be the only state constitutional provision that mentions the International Paper Company by name. It also contains a sentence that has 403 words.

Posted by: DF on November 2, 2002 08:56 PM

I had to sign a loyalty oath to be a school volunteer.

And, in 8th grade, I had to pass a test on the Illinois Constitution, which included, among other things, a provision regarding "peddlers, jugglers and mountebanks." The next year, Illinois held a Constitutional Convention and wrote a much simpler Constitution. No mountebanks.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs on November 2, 2002 10:24 PM

Last year I was an adjunct instructor at Oklahoma State. I had to sign a loyalty oath almost identical to the one you described (except, of course, for the substiution of Oklahoma for New York.) I remember thinking at the time that I couldn't think of too much that I could do to damage or help the state or federal constitutions. I didn't have any problem signing it though.

Posted by: Jeffrey Collins on November 2, 2002 10:27 PM

I signed an oath very similar to that one when I first got a teaching assistantship at UC/Berkeley, of all places. Mind you, that was over a decade ago, so it may be gone now.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on November 3, 2002 12:58 AM

I had to take the same oath that the President takes--to support the Constitution and defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic--when I was hired by the Post Office. I imagine all federal employees have to take that oath.

Well, while I was pledging, being the wiseass little twentysomething college girl that I was, I laughed in the middle of it because that concept seemed so stupid to me. And gained the undying wrath of the Career Postal Worker manager, because a few other people cracked up with me.

I did not, needless to say, thrive in the US Postal Service. But I got a bunch of great stories to tell about how inept the Post Office truly is. Maybe it's time to post one or two on my weblog.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish on November 4, 2002 02:37 PM

In the mid 80's I signed one when I worked out at a city park/campground. A couple of years later I signed one when I applied as a teacher in the school system.

Of course, as I stated at the time, if I was a real traitor, a mere loyalty oath would not stop me one bit. If I was bent on overthrowing the national government, why would that dissuade me? It would be like failing to put money in the meter on the way to rob the bank! I mean, really!

Posted by: Michael Orris on November 4, 2002 10:46 PM

P.S. Of course as a loyal American nationalist I would never dream of being a "Johnny Walker Red".

(No sarcasm in this post at all and "I am not making this up." TM).

Really. And I mean it.

Posted by: Michael Orris on November 4, 2002 10:50 PM