We already know many schools across the country have axed cursive handwriting and art classes, but is the Pledge of Allegiance next? In May of this year, Fox News Insider reported that a law was passed in Florida that stated all schools in the state’s 67 districts must notify students that they may opt out of reciting the Pledge. The law sparked outrage throughout the country; however, this is not news - it’s your constitutional right. The First Amendment protects you as an American citizen, in that you do not have to say anything you do not wish to say. A second article released in August delivered the story of an angry Tallahassee uncle, Michah Brienen, who snapped a photo of a Pledge of Allegiance waiver brought home by his niece. The form displayed a box for parents to check that would release their student from reciting and standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. After sharing his displeasure on Facebook, Brienen was met with an outpouring of agreement from people across the country – and I am one of them.
When I was in the third grade, I noticed that my teacher would never stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. One day, before I knew it was offensive to, I asked her why. She did not answer in front of the class but she did pull me aside later and expressed that she believed all global countries are equal and therefore she could not pledge loyalty to just one. I brushed it off then but looking back at it now, I realize this may be the mindset of those parents checking the box renouncing their children from committing to one superior flag. Maybe these folks grew up some place else before becoming a US citizen, and cannot marry the idea of placing America above their home country. I understand that diversity is what makes this country so unique, and it is that uniqueness that deserves allegiance. A country that makes upward social mobility possible and grants freedom to say, do and be whatever you want, is a country that deserves the highest ranking of loyalty from its citizens. “One nation/under God/indivisible.” The USA is made up of roughly 319 million people, all fiercely different, but together we form one indivisible nation.
I am in no way advocating that children should be forced to recite something they do not believe in, but what I do hope is that schools will spend more time educating their students about what it is exactly they are saying. Restorethepledge.org summarizes the Pledge like this, “I promise to follow and obey the laws of the land, to never renounce, desert, or betray the Republic of the United States of America which cannot be split into parts. I acknowledge that the people and government are dependent upon a supernatural being and I will strive to ensure equality and freedom for all citizens.”
If children are taught what the Pledge means, they will be able to make an informed decision about what they choose to or not to partake in. For me, the Pledge is that brief time before a sporting event, ceremony or even a school day when I am able to rise with my hand over my heart and reflect on those who are fighting for or who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this great country. If it weren’t for those brave men and women, I would not be able to lead the life I do. It is that moment to stray from any selfish thoughts, and think about the bigger picture - show some patriotism. With our busy lives honing in these days, how many moments can we really pause and experience a bit of national pride?
When we start reiterating the idea of opting out of something to children, chances are, they will. The Pledge is meant to unite, not divide; how disappointing will it be in ten years when my children are labeled as “weird” for reciting the Pledge loud and proud? So, the next time you are prompted to stand for the Pledge, don’t just zip through it like you may have grown accustomed to over the years – think about what each line really represents and never forget the value of our Pledge of Allegiance.
Lead Image Credit: Michael Browning via Unsplash