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

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
What's Next
Trending Today
10 Provocative Quotes from Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society"
Daniel Lattier · 9,965 views today · Ivan Illich’s groundbreaking book Deschooling Society (1971) offers a radical critique of the institutionalization of education within modern societies. Illich believed that we...
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 8,654 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 8,241 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 6,796 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 6,557 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
How a Trump Presidency Would Unleash a Torrent of Racist Violence-And Devastate the Left
Arun Gupta · 5,150 views today · The Left should take the Trump threat very seriously.
Superblocks: How Barcelona Is Taking City Streets Back From Cars
5 min · 4,867 views today · Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians.
Doctors Response to Daily Mail Bigotry is Beautiful
Neil Tiwari · 4,576 views today · A poetic open letter to the Daily Mail newspaper from Dr. Neil Tiwari, in response to a bigoted attack on his colleagues, is going viral and it's beautiful.
Fighting Trump - Residents Opposing Donald Trump's Scottish Golf Resort
14 min · 4,104 views today · Documentary on the residents protesting against Donald Trump's golf development on the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Directed and Presented by James Trosh.
Real Change in Democracy Comes Not in the Voting Booth but Activism at the Grass-Roots
Ilze Peterson · 4,100 views today · Many years ago, the late Judy Guay, a low-income woman from Bangor, founded the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods in order to advocate for the neediest in our...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 3,945 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...
Maya Angelou's 3-Word Secret to Living Your Best Life
3 min · 3,757 views today · Dr. Maya Angelou says that in order to be the best human being you can be, you must follow one simple directive: "Just do right." Watch as Dr. Angelou reveals how you can never...
Forest Man
16 min · 3,553 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 2,520 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...
Throw (2016)
10 min · 2,327 views today · The first installment of Invisible Thread, an ongoing ELM passion project series, Throw tells the story of an outsider from East Baltimore, an area challenged by gang violence...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 2,273 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object?
3 min · 2,021 views today · How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn't matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object? Spoken...
93 Documentaries to Expand Your Consciousness
Films For Action · 1,734 views today · There are over 800 documentaries now cataloged in our library of social change films. That's probably way too many for any mortal to ever watch in a lifetime, let alone a few...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 1,721 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
A City Open to Migration and Diversity?
2 min · 1,706 views today · We speak to Thomas Jézéquel of Eurocities about what the city of Gdańsk can teach us.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Let's End the Pledge of Allegiance in Schools