Sit Down to Stand Up to the Pledge

By Lara Strydom, Editorial Editor

“I pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America”- Every morning at 8:20am, hundreds of students of Alpharetta High School stand up to say these words that have virtually been ingrained into our minds as a hard-core memorization since Kindergarten. Yet, do people actually mean the words they are saying?

How many of these kids are just saying it out of fear of being excluded from the rest of the class? Should it really be a social standard for students to pledge themselves to certain beliefs every morning that may not even be their own?

The pledge of allegiance is ultimately an expression of political opinion. People are proclaiming that the United States is where they pledge their loyalty, and are expressing the way in which they view this country. “And to the republic for which it stands” confirms their belief that the United States is indeed a Republic. “One nation, under God” implies the belief of a God that protects our united nation. “Indivisible and liberty and justice for all”, suggests the opinion that justice is adequately served and that we all enjoy equality of rights in this nation.

Now I’m not saying that these beliefs are wrong. There is nothing wrong with them at all. In fact, they are the great beliefs that reflect the fundamentals of our United States Constitution. Yet, although these are the beliefs of our constitution, they are not necessarily the beliefs of everyone else. Thus, people shouldn’t have to submit to beliefs that don’t truly reflect who they are and what they believe.

First of all not everyone pledges their loyalty to the United States as priority. According to KaiserFamilyFoundation, approximately 7% of the United States population are not United States citizens, thus meaning that their citizenship is pledged to a different country. Not to mention the amount of United States citizens who also have dual-citizenship meaning that they are also citizens of another country.

The word citizenship is naturally compared with words like loyalty, responsibility, belonging, and pride. The pledge of allegiance is essentially a reflection of these ideas of citizenship in that it is talking about the pledge/commitment Americans make to their country as citizens.

This being said, why should students say a pledge that promotes the the ideals of American citizenship when they are not even an American citizen? It’s not that they don’t respect these ideas of citizenship, but their feelings of citizenship are just for a different country. And to feel forced to claim your loyalty. To feel forced to claim your loyalty to any country other than the one you truly claim is to feel like you are betraying your own beliefs and even your true citizenship.

Furthermore, just like saying the pledge everyday is a way to express certain political views/beliefs, not saying the pledge is also a way of expressing certain political views/beliefs. Thedailybeast recently reported a case in which a student in Chicago, Illinois refused to stand up for the pledge of allegiance, even after the teacher tried to force him out of chair, in claiming that the United States does not support African-Americans.

While it is true that students’ freedom of speech is restricted to some extent within school to avoid disturbing the classroom environment, it seems very hard to argue that sitting silently while others are saying the pledge is disturbing to the classroom environment. Political and social issues in America are more crucial than ever in today’s world, and students should be encouraged to form their own perspectives on these issues and have the courage to express these views. Someday they won’t be students anymore, they’ll be our country’s future.  That being said, if they do not learn to find ways to express their opinion and are rather just taught to follow the crowd, then there is no telling where our country might end up.

On the other hand, many believe that the pledge is a way of teaching students to take pride in the country they live in. When students say the pledge, it’s not just some daily procedure, but it’s a way of showing respect for the country they should be thankful to live in. While America definitely is considered a great country in terms of its history and position as a world power, students should want to take pride in their country because they want to, not because society wants them to. Students need to form their own ideas rather than just having social forces and conformity mold ideas into their brains for them. Or else, students will be taught to just let others tell them what to believe and what to do, rather than taking on that responsibility by themselves.

So how do you handle it when you are the only person in the class who doesn’t want to express those ideas portrayed in the pledge? Courage. Take the courage to express your own belief even if no one else supports it, because it may just make a change. The people who have made change in this world often started off standing alone, but they didn’t let that stop them. Where would we be today if people like Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t express their views just because they were scared of being alone? Don’t let fear control your life, and don’t let the fear of being different stop you from doing what you see as right.

Photo Credits: Euclid Public Library

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