Columnists, Education, Jon Caldara, Politics, Uncategorized

Caldara: Lessons learned from school’s Gadsden flag debacle

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

There’s a lot to unfold with one Gadsden flag.

The most surprising and disappointing point about this kerfuffle is that, even at a reputable charter school with a classical curriculum, with an emphasis on teaching historic accuracy, staff needs to be schooled by parents that one of America’s founding flags has nothing to do with slavery.

The considerably greater takeaway is parents should record their encounters with school officials. It might be the thing that guarantees an education for your child.

If you missed the story, 12-year-old Jaiden Rodriguez is a student at the Vanguard School in Colorado Springs, a public charter school. His backpack is adorned by many patches including one of the Gadsden flag.

I loved this flag long before it was made popular by the Tea Party movement. Its truly American slogan of “Don’t tread on me” sings to my soul.

The Gadsden flag

Created in 1775, the rattlesnake was a common symbol of unity among the 13 colonies, that’s both slave and freeman colonies.

Jaiden’s mother (or maybe it was Jaiden?) was clever enough to keep a phone video recording while she and the boy were hauled into the school to be lectured that the offending flag patch needed to be ripped from his backpack. It was offensive, the school official said, because of its obvious ties to slavery.

“We do not want the flag (due) to its origins with slavery and slave trade (sic),” they were told.

When Mrs. Rodriguez calmly explained the flag had nothing to do with slavery, that it was an American flag from the revolutionary period, the administrator, seeming not to believe or even care, fell back on to what every bureaucrat always falls back upon: “This is the school’s policy.”

Mrs. Rodriguez sent the video of this bizarre encounter to a buddy of mine, Connor Boyack with the Libertas Institute who put it out on X (formerly Twitter). And, as the kids say, it blew up the internet.

Even Gov. Jared Polis weighed in saying the Gadsden flag’s great and kids should be able to express themselves with a patch of that or the rainbow flag or anything they like, so long as they’re not disturbing the classroom. And you know how I hate to agree with Jared.

The charter school had to do an embarrassing about-face. After a few days away from school, Jaiden’s back in the classroom, flag patch and all, and, hopefully, his teachers know a little more about American history.

It’s fascinating that a 12-year-old boy had to go through the embarrassment and stigma, lose several days of precious education, while the people who hide behind policies, their ignorance of history and their cowardice to engage their own common sense, don’t go several days without employment.

If this incident were not recorded, we really wouldn’t have known what exactly happened. It would have devolved into a he-said, she-said issue, the school hiding behind the usual “We don’t comment on student matters” policy.

And the media is so kind to kids who carry Gadsden flags.

People record their encounters with the police. The police now record most of their encounters with citizens.

Parents, you should not be intimidated to politely record your meetings with school administrators.

In Colorado you do not need their permission or knowledge to do it secretly. Your kids’ futures lie in the balance.

Worth noting this happened at a charter school. Still a public school, but run by a different board made-up of parents who wish to operate the school in a different manner. That manner may include no historic flags on backpacks as part of a dress code. Fine. But that policy shouldn’t be made-up on the spot.

Perhaps the most terrifying part of this all is how groupthink can take one of the most patriotic flags of unity in our history and, over the course of just a few years, turn it into a symbol of division.

Some people at Trump rallies wave the Gadsden flag. Some people storming the capital on Jan. 6, 2021, waived the Gadsden flag. Now by some social osmosis this Gadsden flag will become a symbol of hate.

And I will be labeled a hater and a racist for loving one of the original founding, unifying flags of our nation long before Trump or modern Tea Party movements.

Time for a rainbow- Gadsden flag to blow their little minds.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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