I Pledge Allegiance…to What?
Every morning, millions of children wake up, have breakfast, and prepare for school. They walk into school, possibly excited, but more likely begrudgingly dragging themselves out of bed five minutes before the first bell. They go to their respective homerooms or first period classes, and just when they collapse into their seats and start to nap, the loudspeaker crackles and a person drones, “Good morning.
Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance”. Gradually every student rises and begins the same rhyme that they all know by heart, drilled into them since they were too young to fully understand the words; “I pledge allegiance, to the flag…” Growing up, children do not question the practice.
They fall into the habit of repeating the same words, over and over, not understanding the significance of it. Some of them go their whole lives never questioning the repetitive, pointless practice. But sooner or later, they reach high school and begin to question everything in the world around them. Parents are assailed with a million questions every day on a multitude of seemingly random subjects. Nothing is exempt from their scrutiny, including the “patriotic” pledge that they repeat, day after day.
Yet even if they develop an opinion against it, they are trapped by the social norms and the pressure of patriotic duty that accompany the recitation of the pledge. The pledge of allegiance should not be said in high schools because of the anti-American ideals that it exemplifies, the extra pressure placed on American schoolchildren, and the isolation it places on children of other religions. The pledge of allegiance promotes the conformity and authoritarianism that goes against the very ideals of America, the land of the free. Children are trained to stand at a call and repeat words pledging their loyalty to their country in a manner that is eerily similar to the indoctrination of children in the book 1984 by George Orwell. Though the children in 1984 are taught to love the all-knowing figure of Big Brother and the children of today are taught to love America, the concept is virtually the same. The pledge is also often compared to practices that children in Nazi Germany used to perform.
Members of the Hitler Youth would proclaim their loyalty to the great nation of Germany and The National Socialist Worker’s Party daily. The resemblance to the practice of saying the pledge today is uncanny; the similarities simply cannot be denied. The pledge directly challenges the freedom and liberty that the great country of the United States was built on, and contradicts everything that we try to teach kids about American principles. Kids will never learn the value of a true democratic society if they are forced to conform each and every morning. The pledge of allegiance, meant to encourage respect and loyalty to the United States, instead encourages a blind patriotism that has no meaning whatsoever, making the practice pointless.
Many parents believe that the pledge of allegiance is an ode of respect to America and its treasured past, but repeating the pledge day after day, year after year in a bland monotone until the words become nearly meaningless strips away any respect meant for our country. Historically, the pledge was not even meant to respect America; it was actually made by a xenophobic socialist as a marketing strategy for selling the American flag. By encouraging children to recite the pledge every morning, the author, Francis Bellamy, hoped to indoctrinate children with a nationalistic fervor that would eventually result in the utopia he so desperately seeked. So though some parents may be otherwise convinced, reciting the pledge sends the wrong message to the children that embody the future of America. Patriotism cannot be forced onto children like education; they must choose their own path and find their own unique way of expressing loyalty to their country. Trivial acts such as the pledge will not command respect for the United States from children.
The purpose behind the pledge of allegiance is not for a noble cause, but rather in the name of influencing children towards a certain mindset. Although children may recite the pledge nearly every day of their youth, it will still not affect whatever feelings they may have towards patriotism and nationalism, making it a futile attempt to bolster nationalist sentiments. The recitation of the pledge of allegiance over the loudspeakers every morning also puts a social pressure on children to follow the status quo. Though saying the pledge is not required by law, many teachers still choose to infringe upon the first amendment rights of students by forcing them to stand and recite the pledge. Not only do some students get illegal pressure from their teachers, but they also receive a type of social pressure from their peers that the law cannot prohibit.
In most cases, instead of risking unwarranted isolation from their peers, a child would rather go against their beliefs and recite the pledge in order to be like everybody else. Reciting a slogan that they don’t believe in is much easier than bearing the stares and whispers elicited from others by the refusal of it. As a high school student, it is simply easier to put on a facade of fakeness rather than expressing an unpopular controversial opinion. This applies to many things in all aspects of a high schooler’s life, and the practice of saying the pledge is, unintentionally, one of the things that puts even more pressure on a child in high school. The pledge is an unnecessary burden in the already challenging waters of high school, and the only solution is to abstain from reciting the pledge altogether. The Supreme Court may have declared the pledge of allegiance as constitutional, but they did not bear in mind the social and ethical implications of reciting the pledge in schools. The practice of the pledge of allegiance, supposedly meant to give honor to America and its ideals, contradicts the very ideals it is meant to honor. It is an ineffective attempt at influencing the impressionable minds of young children, when America should be allowing them to develop their own opinions. Along with cultivating the wrong mindset, it puts additional pressure on children, especially high schoolers, to act like a different person in order to be the same. The government of the United States simultaneously neglects to abide by its founding principles and forces its own personal doctrine, as well as social pressures, upon schoolchildren.
Perhaps, as adults, they do not realize the degree of indoctrination and nationalist propaganda that the pledge of allegiance represents. But we, as students, recognize that our right of forming opinions independent of government influence is being taken away. The issue is bigger than children being forced to pledge their loyalty to America; it is about the government influence and indoctrination it promotes. By expressing our shared antipathy of the pledge of allegiance, we could change the lives of countless numbers of children in the future. They will not have to be controlled by government propaganda that is spread through the current school system.
Instead, we can give them a childhood where they are free to make decisions based on their own thoughts and experiences. Together, we can raise awareness for an issue that few people are aware of today- the indoctrination of children by government propaganda in schools.. Together, we can take a stand and ensure that the childhood of future generations will not be defined by an aimless pledge of loyalty recited every morning at 8:00 am.