When Rossella was still in preschool and I was travelling to the US a lot for work, I brought her with me several times on extended trips, usually while Enrico was also travelling for mathematical research. So Ross experienced daycare in several different places in America, which was good for her English, and gave her exposure to American culture.
The year she was four, she was slated to spent some time with me in California. Before she arrived (accompanied by Enrico), I went to look at daycare centers with the wife of one of my Italian colleagues, who also had a young child. At one center the owner said, in a very aggressive tone: “I have all the kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.”
I had my own run-in with the Pledge when I was a kid, so you can imagine how I felt about this. “But these kids aren’t even American,” I protested.
“All the more reason for them to realize how lucky they are to be here!” she snapped. We decided against that place.
The only other option was an avowedly Christian daycare center. I was worried about what kind of indoctrination we might come up against, but the place was bright, cheerful, and clean, and I liked the staff, so I decided to risk it. I gave Ross a talk about how these people might tell her a lot of stuff about God, and she wasn’t to feel bad or strange if she didn’t agree with it; she was always free to make up her own mind.
She came home one evening and told me excitedly about the Bible stories she had heard that day: the adventures of Jonah and the whale, and Noah.
“Do you think that stuff is true?” I asked worriedly.
“Oh, no!” she said brightly. “They said they were stories!”
Nov 18, 2003
My friend Ivo wrote: “When I was in the US on my first day of high school [9th grade, in Georgia] I got the teacher yelling at me because I didn’t stand and recite the pledge! He said: “Are you Russian!? Would you prefer to be in Russia!?”
When I explained that I was Italian and had no idea of what that funny thing was, we found an agreement, and for the remaining 2 and a half years I was expected to stand up, but could avoid speaking or keeping my hand over my heart!”