07/11/06 — Intriguing issue: What’s wrong with ‘feel-good’ laws?

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Intriguing issue: What’s wrong with ‘feel-good’ laws?

A measure making it mandatory for public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily sparked some interesting comments in the North Carolina House recently.

Years ago, it was customary for the pledge to be recited in the classrooms each morning and at the beginning of assembly periods.

No one seems to know just when the practice was abandoned — or why. Perhaps it had its inception during the flag-burning days of the 1960s.

Democratic Rep. Marvin Lucas of Cumberland County offered a possible explanation. He is a retired school principal. According to one news report, he said reciting the pledge had declined in recent years “because of pressure to make time for testing.”

That was particularly interesting in light of his explaining that saying the pledge “takes 18 seconds.”

Based on his observation that this might have taken too much time from the necessary testing, one must sense that students today are subjected to an inordinate amount of testing. Prayers obviously would be an unacceptable incursion on classroom time.

The time element notwithstanding, Rep. Lucas successfully championed the Pledge of Allegiance measure in the House, where he chairs the Education Committee.

It passed by an impressive 106-1 vote.

Rep. Paul Luebke, a Democrat from Durham, cast the lone “no” vote.

He insisted that the law wasn’t necessary since local school boards “already have the discretion to permit the pledge.”

Did that mean under the existing laws, saying the pledge was prohibited unless the school boards specifically authorized it?

But Luebke’s most interesting criticism was that the Pledge of Allegiance measure was “a feel-good bill.”

And what, one might ask, is wrong with voting for a measure that makes people feel good?

One possible implication of Mr. Luebke’s observation is that for a bill to merit approval it must make folks “feel bad.”

Some might suggest that there already are laws aplenty on the books to fill that need.

Published in Editorials on July 11, 2006 1:28 PM