"Billy Johnson, stand at the head of the class. I want you to help us conduct an exercise on the Pledge of Allegiance."
"Yes, Ms. Smith."
"Billy, last week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it is constitutional to use the phrase 'one nation under God' in the pledge. Did you know the court reversed its 2002 decision in which it ruled the same phrase was unconstitutional?"
"No, Ms. Smith."
"Did you know that the phrase 'one nation under God' was not in the original version of the pledge? Or that the original pledge has been altered four times?"
"No, Ms. Smith."
"The original pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. Shortly after he wrote it, the word 'to' was placed before 'the republic.' In 1923, the words 'my flag' were changed to 'the flag of the United States of America.' And in 1924, 'United States' was changed to 'United States of America.'"
"What about the fourth alteration, Ms. Smith?"
"That came in 1954, Billy. President Eisenhower added the words 'one nation under God' to -- says about.com -- 'reaffirm the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future ...'"
"Cool, Ms. Smith."
"America was a much less progressive place in 1954, Billy. In fact, today I want the class to alter the pledge one more time to reflect America's contemporary values. Billy, begin reciting the current version of the pledge."
"Sure thing, Ms. Smith. I pledge ..."
"Stop, Billy. 'I' is so typical of Americans looking at the rest of the world through their own narrow point of view. Say 'we' instead."
"We pledge ..."
"Stop, Billy. A pledge is so harsh. Besides, the courts ruled that reciting the pledge is voluntary. Change 'pledge' to 'may or may not provide.'"
"We may or may not provide our allegiance ..."
"Stop! 'Allegiance' is so confining, Billy. It's fine if a student wants to hold allegiance for America, but what about those students who don't? Change 'allegiance' to 'like.'"
"We may or may not like the flag ..."
"Stop! The American flag is so divisive, Billy. Isn't it a symbol of American overreaching all over the globe? It's really just a promotional marketing gimmick and that's what I want you to call it."
"We may or may not like the promotional marketing gimmick of the United States of America and to the Republic ... "
"Stop! 'Republic,' Billy? You sound as though a republic is somehow better than the political systems used in other countries. Your tone is so condescending. Delete!"
"We may or may not like the promotional marketing gimmick of the United States of America, one nation under God ..."
"Whoa! God, Billy? You have the audacity to mention God in a country that holds such strong separation of church and state? Sure, I know the 9th Circuit Court decided that the term neither restricts nor promotes religion, but for today's exercise, let's delete it."
"We may or may not like the promotional marketing gimmick of the United States of America, indivisible with liberty ..."
"Liberty, Billy? Is there liberty for the millions in this country who are held down by the rich and powerful? Delete!"
"We may or may not like the promotional marketing gimmick of the United States of America, with justice ..."
"Justice, Billy! You really believe there is justice for all in good old America? We use the vast majority of the world's resources. Where's the justice in that, Billy? Delete! Now read our new Pledge of Allegiance from the top."
"We may or may not like the promotional marketing gimmick of the United States of America."
"Bravo, Billy, bravo!"
Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.