graphic by Denise Chan
by Maya Goldberger, opinions writer
I started saying the Pledge of Allegiance in kindergarten – before I could even read. Since then, I have spent many mornings standing at my desk and reciting the Pledge alongside my peers. As a child, I did not think much of it.
Looking back, though, I can see the effect it had on me. It was something me and my classmates did together every day, which helped build a sense of community. On a wider scale, the Pledge of Allegiance is an incredible symbol for the ideals our country should aspire towards. Having been in effect since 1892, it is a staple of American culture.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Julius Bellamy in 1892. Today, 46 states require schools to have a time to recite it. Students across the country recite the same words each morning: “I Pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
At a base level, the Pledge expresses a more tangible version of the American ideals than do other American symbols. With the Pledge of Allegiance, the message is clear. What am I pledging allegiance to? The flag. What does it stand for? The ultimate goal — one united nation, with liberty and justice for all its citizens. The Pledge of Allegiance is literal and concise, the ideal American symbol.
To understand how the Pledge impacts American life, one must look at the language itself and truly understand its meaning. The principles presented in the Pledge are foundational American values: liberty, the freedom to pursue aspirations; justice, fair treatment of citizens by the government based upon their actions; and the ideal of one nation united through equal opportunities.
The ideas represented in the Pledge of Allegiance are wholesome and idyllic. As a united nation with liberty and justice for all sounds like a utopia, the Pledge inspires students to strive to achieve these values. Repetition is one of the quickest routes to internalization, so reciting the Pledge every morning during the formative years of childhood is a way to teach these virtuous concepts to our youth.
Many right-wing conservatives use so-called patriotism as a guise for racism and hate. However, the Pledge’s promises of liberty and justice are completely separate from the hateful ideas pushed by such nationalists; they are central to the fabled American Dream, the idea that everyone has equal opportunity for greatness as long as they work hard and treat others well.
Justice would ensure that everyone has the opportunities available to them to lead a good life, and liberty would ensure that people are treated fairly, that their hard work is rewarded. In many ways, we are far from reaching these lofty goals; however, if we all bear the ideals of the Pledge at the forefront of our minds, we can begin to make strides forward to embody the ideals of the Pledge in our country.
Overall, symbols such as the Pledge of Allegiance bring Americans closer together, community through the United States’s values of freedom, equality and unity. Today, the United States is extremely divided, but maybe the Pledge can show us that our core beliefs and morals are not so different from one another.
We should strive to be more united and accepting. We should think back to elementary school when the Pledge was part of our morning ritual. Those shared memories and the lessons we learned should guide our contributions to our country.
by Elad Levy-Racin, opinions writer
Every morning of every school day from kindergarten to seventh grade, I had to say the Pledge of Allegiance. At first, I obediently recited this pledge; however, I soon started questioning this odd ritual. Every day after the bell rang, everyone had to stand up and mumble nearly a paragraph’s worth of words along with that day’s lucky student on the loudspeaker. Still hardly awake, I did this first thing every morning at school.
This routine puzzled me. For one, I didn’t exactly know what the Pledge of Allegiance meant. Although I vaguely remember the words’ meaning being described to me in second grade, I still didn’t understand why it was so important that I say them. The line “under God” also irked me. What did non-religious people think? Wasn’t school supposed to be separated from religion?
Over time I began to say it less. My sister stopped reciting it first. She noticed that people looked robotic while doing it and felt that it was wrong and had no meaning. I stopped mostly because I was lazy. As I got older, teachers stopped enforcing the mandatory recital of this pledge and eventually stopped making students even stand up during its oration.
Forcing children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance is meaningless when children do not understand its meaning.
Even after I learned that the Pledge was recited to show loyal support to America, I still did not feel the need to stand up and recite a couple of sentences. Nothing against America here — I was just very tired in the mornings. The countless repetition had made the Pledge of Allegiance meaningless to me.
This whole ordeal recently got me thinking. Do we need to teach the Pledge of Allegiance? The Pledge of Allegiance didn’t have any meaning to me; I had said it so many times that even with the reasoning behind it, its words didn’t matter. To me, it became a waste of time. It is important to teach kids things they don’t fully understand like sharing or math, but is the Pledge of Allegiance really necessary? Probably not. For me and for many other students, the Pledge simply loses its meaning and goes unappreciated.
My thoughts on the Pledge lead me to a more important question: do we need to force nationalism on children? I remember when I was a sixth-grader, and a couple of my friends and I were playing a game to see who could jump the highest and hit the American flag. After noticing our antics, my shocked teacher quickly stopped our disrespectful behavior. I instantly felt guilty — I had disrespected my country and upset my teacher by hitting a patriotic symbol.
Later, I reflected on the incident. Why should I feel so guilty when I disrespect my country like that? I then realized that I love America, and it is wrong to disrespect something that I love. This decision was important to me because I had realized it on my own. I was lucky and able to look at this issue pretty neutrally because all prior attempts of forced nationalism had basically flown over my head, so my thoughts on America until that moment were relatively neutral.
This realization led to more questions about the validity of the Pledge: what about the students where that didn’t happen? It shocked me that they would blindly support something without making their own independent decision. It is important to look at issues with an unbiased opinion and forcing kids to pledge allegiance to a country from a young age prevents them from being able to form their own perceptions and beliefs. It is important to love the country that you live in, but society shouldn’t force you to think a certain
way. It is also hard to teach a child a complex idea like nationalism, especially when they can’t comprehend many global issues relating to their own country. All in all, children should not be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It loses its meaning when repeated to a point where children can’t comprehend the sensitive subject, and it is important to let people make neutral, unbiased decisions that school shouldn’t influence.
My younger self did not care about the Pledge of Allegiance. He did not understand world politics, how America compared to other countries and the idea of patriotism. This is why I believe that the Pledge of Allegiance should not be said in classes; America isn’t bad or not worth supporting, but an idea like nationalism is simply too hard for a child to comprehend.