Let's End the Pledge of Allegiance in Schools
Let's End the Pledge of Allegiance in Schools
By Mary Elizabeth Williams / alternet.org
Sep 8, 2013

Just in time for back to school: In Massachusetts this week, a venerable classroom tradition is facing a high court challenge. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court is currently weighing an atheist couple’s argument that the words “under God” be  struck from the Pledge of Allegiance, because they claim the phrase is exclusionary to atheist children like theirs. In other news – wait, why are school children still saying the Pledge of Allegiance anyway?

The anonymous couple’s attorney David Niose contends that “This case presents an unpopular and wrongly vilified minority facing discrimination” by a state “promoting and propagating the idea that good patriots are God believers.” Though it’s mandatory for teachers to lead students in the Pledge each day, it’s voluntary for students to say it. Last year, Middlesex Superior Court Judge Jane Haggerty ruled that the “under God” clause “does not convert the exercise into a prayer” and does not violate children’s rights. OK, but who wants to be the one 7-year-old to sit out something the authority figure just invited the whole class to do?

The idea that God is an intrinsic and necessary part of the Pledge is silly. The original Pledge of Allegiance didn’t even include the phrase “under God.” It was  added in the 1950s. But why is the Pledge itself still mandatory in so many places? Leading the Pledge is also mandatory in New York, but the rule is loosely enforced. Neither of my children’s pinko, godless public schools do it — my 9-year-old asked me this morning what the Pledge even is. (Their Girl Scout troop also unceremoniously struck the phrase “to serve God” from its Promise and the earth did not explode.) And my elder daughter, who recalls it vaguely from her old kindergarten, explained, “You say you’ll be loyal to the flag. Not your country. The flag. I don’t get it.” Maybe it’s blasé attitudes like theirs that pushed a Brooklyn parent two years ago to demand her local public school start enforcing it.

Growing up in Catholic schools, my weekday classroom routine consisted of facing the front of the room, hand over heart, and reciting the Pledge. I then turned around to the crucifix on the back wall and recited the Our Father. I was a patriotic Christian kid then and I’m a patriotic Christian adult now and I have never stopped finding the practice strange and pointless and time-wasting.

Rote recitation, day in and day out, is ultimately meaningless. Ask any second-grader if she knows the meaning of “indivisible.” Ask a random adult, while you’re at it. The question shouldn’t be whether the phrase “under God” belongs in the Pledge; it should be whether the Pledge itself belongs. Does it really speak to or reassure the numerous non-believer kids out there, or the immigrant or dual citizenship kids? Does it teach any of them anything about loyalty or duty?

I am trying every day to raise my children to practice their faith and to respect their country. But love and loyalty don’t spring from standing up and dully parroting a creed because the state says the teacher has to get up and do it. We have a massively broken public education system in our country. And the Pledge is a remnant of so much that’s wrong – drilling, repetition and standardization, when what is desperately called for is inquiry, skepticism and diversity.

 

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.        

 

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
"The Myth of Time" - Martin Luther King Jr.
3 min · 12,175 views today · Excerpt from MLK Jr.'s last sermon, "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution". Delivered at The National Cathedral on March 31, 1968 (4 days prior to his...
Real Underground Kingdom That Has Existed for Millions of Years Went Unnoticed, Until Recently...
Kid Krunk · 8,353 views today · 28 Stunning Photos Of The World’s Largest Cave
Surviving Capitalist Depression
Michael Emero · 8,224 views today · We live in a toxic society filled with toxic people. Even the ones with the best hearts- including ourselves- have been raised in ignorance, with disinformation. Our examples...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 7,226 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 4,403 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Hans Rosling Brilliantly Explains Complexity of Population and Resource Issues Using Simple Tools
3 min · 2,728 views today · Let me show you the world, says Swedish academic Han Rosling as he demonstrates the dynamics of population growth, child mortality and carbon dioxide emissions. The challenge...
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 2,018 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,960 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
True Justice Should Have Compassion in It
Thich Nhat Hanh · 1,829 views today · I believe that true justice should have compassion in it. When someone does something harmful, destructive, the destruction is done not only to the person who is the victim...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 1,820 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
The Price of Certainty
7 min · 1,717 views today · It’s alarming to see how polarized politics have become in the United States. The wider the gulf grows, the more people seem to be certain that the other side is wrong...
How to Fire Your Boss: A Worker's Guide to Direct action
IWW · 1,054 views today · The indignity of working-for-a-living is well-known to anyone who ever has. Democracy, the great principle on which our society is supposedly founded, is thrown out the window...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,048 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 1,038 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 668 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
Meet the Earthship
7 min · 434 views today · Outside of Taos, New Mexico, you'll find a community of people living in off-grid homes made of garbage. The homes are called Earthships and were invented by Michael Reynolds...
The Importance of Empathy
3 min · 395 views today · With an increasingly polarized and divided world, we need empathy more than ever before. Too often we are talking at each other, unable to listen and jumping to entirely wrong...
Growing Huge Amounts of Food on 1/2 an Acre - Urban Abundance
5 min · 378 views today · In the small town of Oxford, Kane and Fiona Hogan have transformed their urban 1/2-acre property into abundant veggie gardens. Their business Urban Gardener aims to build...
HUMAN (2015)
382 min · 328 views today · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 314 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Let's End the Pledge of Allegiance in Schools