'Under God' under scrutiny

Regarding your Oct. 15 article "High Court to rule on the Pledge": While I am an advocate of separation of church and state, I believe the Pledge of Allegiance does not endorse religion and is constitutional. After all, the Pledge of Allegiance is a political recital and not a religious recital. The words "under God" do not make up the subject of the recital. The subject of the Pledge of Allegiance is the US flag. The recital is composed of mostly political words and phrases, like the United States of America, the Republic, one nation, and liberty and justice.

The Pledge of Allegiance advances a political cause, as opposed to a religious one. Therefore, it is constitutional.
Brian Donovan
Tampa, Fla.

The addition of "under God" was pushed by former President Eisenhower in 1954. That change was made to make a religious statement. Why else would it have been made? The pledge is outdated and erroneous to begin with. If we are to pledge allegiance, why is it not to the constitutional form of government that gives us our governmental structure and spells out the general laws under which our nation is governed?

My suggestion is that we make the following pledge: "I salute the flag of the United States of America, and pledge allegiance to the constitutional, democratic republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty, justice, and the freedoms of religious choice, of speech, and of personal privacy, for all." It has never made sense to me that we pledge allegiance to a symbol. This is not some medieval country that pays homage to the banner of the king.
Gene W. DeVaux
Greenwood, Mo.

Japan and Europe on the fast track

Regarding your Oct. 17 editorial "Green Signal for Fast Trains": I agree with your comments, but 325 miles in just under six hours is not fast. It's still slower than driving. Even the much vaunted Acela has the same problem on the Northeast corridor. Too slow.

Take a look at the Japanese bullet train (Shinkansen), or the European TGV. Both have garnered a huge share of the market. Both are very fast - averaging over 100 m.p.h. in many cases. An example of the TGV's success is the Brussels-Paris route; The train has virtually wiped out air travel. It is spacious, fast, safe, reliable, and relatively pollution-free; it has no security hassle; and it goes from one downtown to another. Done right, a fast train service is unbeatable.
Peter Amos
Essex, Conn.

Boosting school attendance

Philadelphia's use of parents as truant officers ("Tool to keep kids in school - other kids' parents," Oct. 16) to help reduce student absenteeism is a commendable but short-term solution. The deeper question that is not being addressed by Philadelphia and other school districts: What would school have to be like to inspire student attendance? The reasons students are dissatisfied range from obsolete and inflexible curriculum, to the perception of teachers as uncaring, to continued academic failure. These are the long-term problems schools need to address.
Larry Schlack
Kalamazoo, Mich.

Key ingredient: the spice of life

I enjoyed Jeffrey Shaffer's Oct. 17 column, "The cheeriest man alive?" It struck a chord. As progressive as the computer age is, I find social skills concurrently dwindling. It is a pleasure to speak with people, to hear the warmth of the human voice. Whether at work, church, school, or in shops, a happy exchange with another is the spice of life. Without it, society is doomed.
Susan Lee Gill
Maple Valley, Wash.

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