It took the destruction of the World Trade Center, but children in New York City's public schools will finally be allowed to learn about patriotism.

On Wednesday, the Board of Education voted to require schools to lead students in a daily, voluntary Pledge of Allegiance in classes and at all schoolwide events.

Thank you, Board of Ed.

Of course, if you're shocked that the pledge had not been part of the school day all along (despite a state law requiring it), you're not alone.

For decades, kids routinely recited the oath. Then came Vietnam, the anti-war movement, the Blame America crowd, political correctness, multiculturalism . . .

In New York City, a hotbed for such movements, schools dumped the pledge like day-old bread.

Even today, some board officials think Sept. 11 argues for more multiculturalism.

"[P]eople who said we don't need multiculturalism . . . a pox on them," Deputy Chancellor Judith Rizzo told The Washington Post on Sept. 30. "I think they've learned their lesson. We have to do more to teach habits of tolerance, knowledge and awareness of other cultures."

Wrong, Dr. Rizzo.

What's needed is unified, national resolve to fight terrorism - for kids to be taught about evil in the world, where it comes from and how to defeat it.

The New York Civil Liberties Union - on cue - went even further than Rizzo (who, for the record, claims her quote was taken out of context) and opposed the board's pledge policy altogether.

Students, you see, might be "scapegoated or targeted" if they decline to recite the pledge, as is their right. They might feel uncomfortable. (Poor things.)

Here's hoping they do! A little bit, anyway.

Such kids - better yet, their parents — ought to feel somewhat uncomfortable. After all, anti-Americanism may be protected by law; that's what makes this country great. (The NYCLU's politics often makes us feel uncomfortable. Yet, the group enjoys tax-free status, which is supposed to apply to non-political groups.)

But criticizing those who reject the pledge, and American unity, is also protected. Patriotic countrymen are entirely within their rights to make U.S.-haters feel disliked, so long as they do it legally.

America, in fact, is the greatest nation in the world. We don't mind saying it.

Anyone who doesn't like it needn't stay.

Copyright 2001 NYP Holdings, Inc.