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.
Many of us will recognize these words as the “Pledge of Allegiance.” As a child in elementary and middle school, I remember saying the Pledge—every single day—mumbling the words, hand over my heart, facing the flag placed at the front of the classroom. As a twelve year old, there was no greater honor than being the student allowed to read the Pledge over the school intercom.
I am not alone in this experience. The Pledge is a hallmark of the American educational system. Every day across the country students state their loyalty and dedication to the flag and the U.S. government. As of 2003, the majority of states actually require the pledge to be said in schools. A few states make the pledge optional, and a few have no laws.
Although the pledge contains the words, “with liberty and justice for all,” the pledge is anything but freedom preserving. For those of us who value individual liberties, the recitation of the Pledge should induce immediate feelings of duress and an uncomfortable tightening in our stomachs.
In fact, the origins of the pledge date back to 1892. The original version was written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and fervent socialist. Bellamy published the Pledge in The Youth’s Companion in September of that year. He hoped the Pledge would promote egalitarianism and undermine the “capitalistic greed” of the country. By reciting the words daily, it was hoped that the Pledge would unite school children in loyalty to the state and a collective society.
The Pledge was altered several times from Bellamy’s original words. The words “under God” were added in 1954 in an attempt to emphasize the distinctions between the U.S. and the atheistic Soviet Union.
The Pledge has been the center of controversy over the years. For the most part, those opposed to Pledge have done so on religious grounds. In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that requiring a person to say the Pledge violates the First and Fourteenth amendments.
Issues of religion aside, the Pledge of Allegiance is disturbing.
Schools are supposed to be a place of learning, a place where students learn to think critically. Schooling is supposed to prepare students to function in society. It is supposed to make them responsible citizens.
The cultivation of devotion to the flag and the U.S. government creates anything but responsible citizens. In fact, the Pledge is a complete slap in the face to the principles it supposedly espouses. It encourages, not a love of liberty and justice, but blind obedience to an “indivisible” government.
If you’re skeptical of this, consider what happens to those who disagree with the Pledge and ask that their children be “opted out.” Not only do they see their children socially ostracized as “that kid,” but they are often viewed as “unpatriotic” or “un-American.” Heaven forbid we question authority!
It’s time to rethink the Pledge of Allegiance. As opposed to teaching our children to blindly follow a piece of cloth and the government behind it, let’s teach them to think critically, value liberty, and truly appreciate the need to protect personal freedoms.