The Pledge of Allegiance in Schools (Opinion): Is not saying the Pledge disrespectful? (Part 3)
March 2, 2021
Two writers from The Mav Student News have chosen to explore opposing arguments on the topic of standing for the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. The following is part three of a three-part series. Click here to read the first part and here to read the second part.
As always, opinion articles are the views of the writers themselves and do not represent an official stance of the student newspaper, Mead High School, or the Saint Vrain Valley School District. We intend for these articles to work together to equally present both sides of an important issue.
For many, recitation of the Pledge is a way to show their respect for our veterans; however, others believe this point is unrelated. In other words, individuals who choose not to recite the Pledge do not necessarily lack admiration or respect for those who have served. The following opinions further discuss two perspectives on this debate in addition to the unique ways different people express their patriotism.
The Pledge is an opportunity to show respect for our veterans
Every morning, when the Pledge is recited on the announcements, many use this as a time to show respect for those who made it possible and make it possible to have an education in the first place.
Some schools’ students are trying to take this away from their peers. One student journalist from Wildwood, Missouri wrote for his school newspaper and explained that more than half of his class refused to stand for the Pledge. In his article, he asked his peers to recognize the importance of standing as a sign of respect. Why are we taking away this symbol of all the blood shed for us to be living in this independent country?
Many living in the United States have someone in their family who fought in the armed forces. According to the Veterans Census Bureau, seven percent of adult Americans were veterans in 2018.
My grandfather is an Air Force veteran, my uncle is a Navy veteran, and my great-grandfathers from different sides of the family were in the military and fought in a few wars as well.
There have been both men and women that have fought for and died for this country so that we can be here. So that we can be a country of our own. So that people can even question whether or not they want to stand for the Pledge. So that I can even be here, freely writing at my desk.
Some may claim that it isn’t necessary for service women and men to travel and fight for our country. This is incorrect. Many don’t understand why people fight for this country. They fight in these wars to protect our rights when they are in situations that may endanger them. When other countries want to take away these rights, we have men and women who risk their lives for our own lives. Even in wars where our personal freedoms weren’t directly connected, our veterans risked their lives to fulfill their duty for our country.
When someone’s voice is heard reciting the Pledge or singing the National Anthem, it shows great regard for the veterans who made it possible for them to be there, as well as the soldiers who cannot be here today. It is a significant way to show our highest appreciation for those heroes. Maybe it is even your ancestors, father, mother, sisters, or brothers — those who made it possible to have freedom and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The least that we can do is give them respect for the things those people have gone through and witnessed — the things that they sacrificed for the future of all of us.
I don’t know how I would handle what some veterans have witnessed and continue to witness on an every-day basis. Many service women and men today go through unimaginable trials to keep us safe. Shouldn’t we show respect for these heroes? Of course.
The Pledge is not a symbol for politics but a symbol for the rights that we hold, the country we live in, and the honor of our Armed Forces and what they fought for.
We are able to live our lives seemingly carefree while our soldiers work and fight in dangerous parts of the world. We don’t witness the tragedies our veterans have (at least not to the extent they did or currently do), and because of this, we don’t appreciate their sacrifices like we ought to. Furthermore, they often — willingly — risk their lives so that we don’t have to witness the devastation they face every day.
Standing for the Pledge gives respect to those who made it possible for us to stand there, in that spot, where some members of our armed forces can’t anymore. Give some decency to those who have been through hell and back — for us. I know that my family members and others that are veterans would feel disrespected by those who don’t stand for the pledge. There are others online who have voiced their concern as far as disrespect goes.
Skylar Whalen is a Sophomore. She enjoys painting, singing, and playing softball. She is in Mead's Harmonique choir and is part of the Mead softball program. Skylar is excited to help other writers succeed and grow. She can’t wait to work with new people and produce engaging stories for the community around her.
The Pledge perpetuates toxic patriotism
A lot of people have a problem not standing for the Pledge because they think it’s the same thing as disrespecting veterans. They say stuff like, “Our soldiers go into danger and even die for our country to protect our freedom, and by disrespecting the flag and America, you disrespect our veterans and their legacy.” I beg to differ.
First of all, not every war we’ve fought has been in defense of our freedom. Some wars are because we want somebody’s oil or like sticking our noses in other countries’ business. An example of the latter is the Vietnam War: we fought to keep South Vietnam from joining with the communist North Vietnam, and though there is a lot of controversy on this, we really shouldn’t be telling countries an ocean away how to run their government. And communism ended up not being too bad for Vietnam, which today has a robust, growing economy. I think we should just keep in mind that America isn’t the perfect standard of liberty we often make it out to be.
Secondly, making people Pledge blindly to their country isn’t honoring veterans and their legacy. By making people think a certain way, even if it‘s honoring our country, we’re telling veterans that their efforts were fruitless, that even though they sought to defend our essential rights and liberties, we’re still going to violate them by taking away students’ rights to form their own unswayed opinions about their country. If we really want to respect our veterans, we should encourage free thinking, not force kids into a ‘Murica mindset.
It’s good to appreciate the joys of living under a democracy, but this overzealous love of country can soon turn to hating and looking down on other countries. Patriotism can become a dangerous and toxic thing. Patriotism can become nationalism and even xenophobia, which I think we can all agree are terrible things.
When we use patriotism as an excuse to force ideas onto people or to do things that can hurt others physically or emotionally, we aren’t really being patriotic. We’re just being jerks.
You might be thinking, “The Pledge isn’t really that hurtful; it’s a good kind of patriotism.” Well, someone that thinks that may not know about the origin of the Pledge. It’s a little spiel written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival in America of Christopher Columbus, an Italian man who brought on the enslavement, raping, and eventual annihilation of most Native Americans. Francis Bellamy felt like America was being sullied by all of the European immigrants coming in at the time, so he wrote the Pledge as a way to get America’s school children to be more patriotic amidst “evil foreign influences”.
So no, the Pledge isn’t necessarily a good kind of patriotism. Like the Confederate flag is a relic of a time of extreme racism, the Pledge is a relic of a time of extreme xenophobia. Maybe the Pledge doesn’t sound like that when you recite it every day at school, but there’s no denying its original sentiments. When we let the Pledge become a part of our lives, we are saying that we are willing to tolerate the xenophobic behavior it is rooted in. Tolerating something wrong is the first step in doing something wrong.
It probably sounds like I hate my country, and well, there are a few things I hate about my country’s actions. I hate xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other things that you should probably hate too, and when my country tolerates, enables, or even protects these things, I hate what my country does.
But you know what I do love about my country? I love my country’s foundational beliefs. I love my country’s racial, ethnic, cultural, and ideological diversity. I love my country’s system of democracy. I love my country’s stories of inspirational people overcoming their circumstances to do great things. I love my country’s beautiful and varietous landscapes. I also love my country’s high density of fast food joints because French fries are delicious. But what I love most about my country is that, in theory, we are always striving to become better.
Our founding fathers wanted “to form a more perfect union”, and do you know what they did to fulfill that goal? They examined what was wrong with their current system, told the people in charge all about it, and when the people in charge didn’t do anything to help, they stood up and changed their country for the better (note that “country” and “government” are different entities). They didn’t say, “I really hate this tea tax, but I’ll put up with it because I’m a patriotic British citizen.” What they said was, “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [protecting citizens’ liberties], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”
Now, I’m not saying we should overthrow the government because the Pledge is wrong. The point is that criticizing your country does not mean you hate your country. It is exactly because I love my country that I put time and effort into correcting its flaws instead of moving to Canada. Being able to love America while also expressing my criticisms of it makes my love more sincere. You could say that one of the most patriotic things you can do is to be unpatriotic.
It is essential that we do what our founding fathers did and fix every wrong within our power to fix. To this end, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools should be abolished. This routine is an unconstitutional establishment of religion that scorns our country’s most sacred values.
Instead of the Pledge, it would be more appropriate for schools to have a daily moment of silence, which would allow kids to reflect on any opinion they want, and the kids who really want to could still say the Pledge in their heads. This alternative would avoid glorifying our country’s downfalls and instead celebrate what we strive for: “liberty and justice for all”.
Final Editorial Message:
Thank you for taking the time to read two opinions on this hotly debated topic. If you have not already, we encourage you to read the companion pieces both here and here. One of our goals is to draw connections and share diverse perspectives. We want our readers to know we have spent a large amount of time vetting these articles and considering the words of our opinion writers. Both writers worked together and in conjunction with one another to present their sides, almost like a conversation. We hope our readers will participate in this conversation and let us know your thoughts! You can email our Editor in Chief Marina Goter and even submit a letter to the editor to react to our student publication ([email protected]).
Once again, all opinions are those of the writers themselves and do not represent any official view or stance by our publication, Mead High School, or Saint Vrain Valley Schools.
Adah McMillan is a Senior. She enjoys reading, drawing, eating candy, playing the piano, listening to musicals, and being right. She is involved in choir, NHS, the MHS Book Club, and SVVSD's Innovation Center. She is excited to do more work in The Mav this year and make the website as perfect as it can be.
You can contact her at [email protected]