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Why do Students Recite the Pledge of Allegiance?

Students recite the Pledge of Allegiance to express patriotism and unity, honoring the values and freedoms of the United States. This daily ritual fosters a sense of national community and civic responsibility from a young age. How does this tradition shape young minds, and what are its implications in our diverse society? Join the conversation and explore the impact.
Kathy Hawkins
Kathy Hawkins

The Pledge of Allegiance is a short speech that goes: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." In the United States, it is often recited at public events and it is commonly recited at public schools, especially elementary schools. To recite it, school children are meant to stand facing the American flag with their right hand over their heart.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a Baptist minister and socialist author named Francis Bellamy. Bellamy wrote the pledge as part of an advertising campaign for a magazine called Youth's Companion, as a way to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus' journey to America. Bellamy's original text, however, did not include any reference to God.

The Liberty Bell is a symbol of American independence.
The Liberty Bell is a symbol of American independence.

The inclusion of the phrase "under God" was inspired by a Catholic group called the Knights of Columbus, who added the phrase to their own recitals in 1951, and attempted to make it a formal part of the pledge. However, the Pledge of Allegiance was not officially changed to include the phrase until 1954, when Minister George Docherty recited a sermon about it while president Eisenhower was in attendance. Docherty and Eisenhower spoke after the sermon, and Eisenhower introduced legislation to modify the Pledge of Allegiance the next day. Since that time, "under God" has been officially recognized as a part of the text.

Some people have disputed the allowance of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Some people have disputed the allowance of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

However, many people dispute the allowance of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. They argue that, because the pledge is recited in public schools and at public events, it breaks the First Amendment claim of separation of church and state. In 2002, a case was brought to the Supreme Court by Michael Newdow, an atheist who did not want his daughter to have to recite the words "under God" in her classroom. However, the Supreme Court ultimately claimed that Newdow did not have the right to bring the case to trial, because he was divorced and was not the parent with primary custody. Because of this, they did not have to make a judgment regarding whether it represented a breach of the First Amendment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the historical significance of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools?

Children are often taught the Pledge of Allegiance in schools in the U.S.
Children are often taught the Pledge of Allegiance in schools in the U.S.

The Pledge of Allegiance was first composed in 1892 by Francis Bellamy and has since become a patriotic ritual in American schools. Its recitation is intended to express loyalty and unity to the nation. Historically, it served as a daily affirmation of American values and citizenship, especially during times of war and national conflict. The practice gained legal backing with the Flag Code in 1942, which set guidelines for the display and respect of the American flag, including the recitation of the Pledge.

Is it mandatory for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance?

The Pledge of Allegiance is most often recited in elementary schools.
The Pledge of Allegiance is most often recited in elementary schools.

No, it is not mandatory for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. According to the Supreme Court ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), students cannot be compelled to recite the Pledge or salute the flag. This decision protects individual freedom of speech and religious liberty under the First Amendment, allowing students to opt out of the recitation for personal or religious reasons without facing punishment or discrimination.

How does reciting the Pledge of Allegiance impact students?

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance can have varying impacts on students. For some, it fosters a sense of national pride and unity, reinforcing civic values and the principles of liberty and justice. However, for others, it may raise issues of conformity and the expression of individual or minority beliefs. Educational institutions often use the Pledge as a tool to promote patriotism and teach students about civic duty and the significance of national symbols.

What are the words of the Pledge of Allegiance and what do they mean?

The Pledge of Allegiance states: "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." These words express loyalty to the American flag and the nation it represents—a Republic characterized by unity, under a divine presence (a phrase added in 1954), offering freedom and fairness to every citizen.

Have there been any significant changes to the Pledge of Allegiance over time?

Yes, the Pledge of Allegiance has undergone several changes since its creation in 1892. The most notable changes include the addition of the words "the Flag of the United States of America" in 1923 and "under God" in 1954. The latter was introduced during the Cold War era, in part to distinguish the United States from atheistic communist countries, reflecting the religious sentiments of the time and the association of faith with American identity.

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Discussion Comments

anon210542

Has it prevented the people from becoming more selfish and to care only about money?

anon175382

i agree that the pledge of alliance is a good thing to do. i believe that that it would help bring the nation closer and make younger kids think more about our nation instead of other things. it would help them take pride in our country and strive for success for our country to move forward.

SauteePan

@Sunny27 - I really respect what you're saying, but I can see it from the other point of view too. For instance, think about if they suddenly changed it to say "One nation under Buddha" (or any other religious entity you'd like to name). All I'm saying is, though I personally agree with you, I can certainly see why it would upset some people.

Sunny27

It is a little difficult for me to understand what the pledge of allegiance controversy is all about. Ever since I can remember in school we always read the pledge of allegiance and my kids so do in private school as well.

I think the pledge of alliance signifies a common respect that we have for the United States as a nation. This nation was founded as a Judeo-Christian nation and even our money says, ‘In God we trust.” What do you all think?

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    • The Liberty Bell is a symbol of American independence.
      The Liberty Bell is a symbol of American independence.
    • Some people have disputed the allowance of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
      By: Katrina Brown
      Some people have disputed the allowance of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
    • Children are often taught the Pledge of Allegiance in schools in the U.S.
      By: Glenda Powers
      Children are often taught the Pledge of Allegiance in schools in the U.S.
    • The Pledge of Allegiance is most often recited in elementary schools.
      By: Szasz-Fabian Erika
      The Pledge of Allegiance is most often recited in elementary schools.