by Arjun Singh ‘12
The Pledge of Allegiance was originally written by Francis Bellamy in 1892 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in America. It was then used later in 1892, by James Upham, a marketer for a magazine, to promote sales of flags and magazines to students and schools while promoting the idea of American nationalism in citizens. It has been modified numerous times since and is now repeated by millions of students every day throughout the country.
The purpose of the Pledge may have been to instill nationalism, but instead it is emotionlessly recited by indifferent students. It supposedly unifies our country, but in actuality, it violates the Constitution and takes advantage of young kids. The idea that students are expected to recite words that they do not care about or pay attention to is ridiculous. The time has come to stop saying the Pledge simply for the sake of saying it.
The First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech, yet the Pledge is recited mostly in school by students and teachers at a specific time during the day. We have rights in order to protect citizens from the abuse of power by the government, but what is the point if our rights are not enforced properly? Our school policy states that students may recite or not recite the Pledge at their own discretion; however, many teachers in practice require students to recite the Pledge despite this school policy. This occurs especially at the elementary and middle school levels where students are never told that the Pledge is optional. Students are taught that standing and reciting the Pledge is a requirement and never recognize their choice in the matter.
The Pledge violates the Constitution not once, but twice. It goes against both our freedom of speech and free exercise of religion. The words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Our freedom of religion allows Americans to practice any religion they choose and it also restricts the government from establishing or supporting any religion. The words “under God” support the concept of monotheism, or the belief of one god or divine being. Many religions, such as Hinduism, do not believe in one god, and some cultures and individuals do not believe in a god at all. This infringement on the rights of citizens, even young people, to freely express their religion or lack of one cannot and should not be tolerated.
The Pledge is taught to children at a very young age before they are able to understand it. The meaning of words such as “allegiance,” “republic” and “indivisible” in the Pledge are most likely not known by kids as young as five years old. As they grow up, they develop the habit of reciting the Pledge and unquestionably pledge their allegiance to their country without realizing it. There is a name for this: brainwashing. Students are not truly given their right of expression because at such a young age, they cannot comprehend their own rights. Young kids cannot truly choose if they want to recite the Pledge.
Reciting the Pledge should not be required of all students. It is something that we should have a choice in. People should recite the Pledge at their own time and at their own discretion. Whether students want to recite it when they wake up, when they return from school or not at all should be a personal choice.