Before World War II, students used to pledge with one arm raised rather than hand over heart. Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

Pledge of Allegiance evolves to reflect era

January 9, 2019

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.”

31 words that shape our nation to demonstrate patriotism and respect. Though that is what The Pledge of Allegiance has shaped into, that is not how it originally began.

Before World War II, students used to pledge with one arm raised rather than hand over heart. Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

In 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote the pledge and posted it a magazine called The Youth’s Companion on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival at the Americas.

The article not only promoted patriotism by encouraging school children to recite the pledge every day. They also used it as a marketing branch to sell the flags they just so happen to also make since the schools would have to buy flags for the children to recite it every day to.

The first change to the pledge came in 1923 when the words “the flag of the United States of America” were added to replace the original, “my flag”.

When the pledge was initially written by Bellamy, he intended for any other country to be able to use the same pledge hence “my flag” instead of directly saying the United States. The words were changed by the National Flag Conference to boost American patriotism.

The next and most controversial change to the pledge took place in 1954 when the words “under God” were added to demote Godless communism.

Bellamy’s daughter rejected the change since the First Amendment states the separation of church from state, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that the change would remain since reciting the pledge is a choice in the first place.

Another change that most people do not know occurred was the change from the original salute to the flag which was the right arm extended towards the flag. It was changed to right hand over heart during World War II when it too closely resembled the Nazi salute.

Today the pledge is recited every day by most children in the United States like its original intent, but most students don’t know a lot about it.

According to IC 20-30-5-.05 of Indiana State Law, an American flag is required to be displayed in every classroom. Schools are also required to give students an opportunity to recite the pledge every day.

Though the pledge is administered every day, not many students participate in it. Majority of people stand and place their hand over their heart to not draw attention to themselves, but they don’t say it either out of laziness or not feeling like it is necessary.

“I feel like I’m the only one that says the pledge in my class anymore,” says Ashlyn Rinehart, a freshman at Carroll.

Some students mumble the pledge. Some never stand. Some think it is a waste of time, but do it anyway because they have to.

According to Assistant Principal Jeremy Yates, schools have to offer it, but students are not required to participate in the pledge and cannot be punished for it since it is protected under peoples’ First Amendment rights.

Students at the high school level might not say the pledge as much as younger grades, but they do think it is important. Most of the students interviewed recognized that the pledge is symbolic to the freedom of the country.

“It [the pledge] honors our country and helps us honor those that have sacrificed themselves for us,” says Carroll student, Natalie Linnemeier.

Everyone interviewed about the subject by me did not know anything about the history of the pledge, just that it is important.

Elementary students on the other hand don’t question doing the pledge and have higher participation rates since they are taught it since the age of 5 and have not yet reached an age where they think about what they are doing really means and represents.

When someone doesn’t do it at the age, it causes a lot of confusion.

Oak View 4th grader Henry Rose chose to not participate in the pledge last week, saying that it is a waste of time.

It caused a disruption in the class since the other kids were confused about what he was doing. At that point in their lives, most of them had not yet known that there was a choice for them to not do the pledge.

A question from that arises, should kids in elementary students be taught the pledge without the option to not participate communicated to them?

Since they do not know the meaning behind it, they can’t make the decision on if they want to participate or not because they don’t know that there is an option.

Or is it okay since it shows nothing but patriotism and respect for the United States, and they can still technically choose to not do the pledge. Or can they?

The school reported to the parents of Rose that he did not participate, and he was instructed by his parents and communicated to the school that he must at least stand up every day for the pledge to avoid a disruption.

This shows how even though kids are given the choice, it is really only their choice with a parental approval until they are 18. Plus, in many states kids have to get their parents’ permission in order to opt out of the pledge.

The pledge is a lot more than 31 words, as shown through the numerous cases it has led to. One other case that led to controversy was the expulsion of Texas senior India Landry.

She was sent home and told not to come back after choosing to sit during the pledge of allegiance earlier this year.

The school was defended in court since Texas law requires all students that are not legal adults to participate in the pledge unless they have parental permission to not do so.

Since Landry was still a few weeks away from being 18, the school has the right to expel her for not doing the pledge.

What’s in store for the pledge’s future? It is so deeply rooted in our culture that it is not going away any time soon, but there will most likely be changes to come.

An expansion of freedom of speech to allow students like India to peacefully protest should appear in the near future because we all deserve protection to express ourselves at all ages.

In the meantime, continue saying those 31 words if they are important to you, but don’t feel bad if you alter them or opt out of them all together because how you honor your country should be up to no one else but you.

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