Have You Talked with Your Kids About Pledging Allegiance?

Sep 9, 2014

By Dave Niose


Are you a bad American if you refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance? Are you a bad parent if you encourage your child to opt out of the Pledge in school?

Not at all. In fact, sitting out the Pledge of Allegiance, and encouraging your children to do so as well, can be seen as an affirmation of certain important values that are sadly lacking in modern America. One could even argue that sitting out the Pledge is itself a noble act of patriotism – or, at least, that those who opt out are by no means any less patriotic than those who participate. (Note: the right to refuse participation in the Pledge has been guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court.)

It would be a mistake to assume that the Pledge of Allegiance is an exercise that somehow unites all good citizens. Most Americans – liberal, moderate, or conservative – are decent and loyal citizens who appreciate at some level the nation’s core values: freedom, equal rights, democracy, and the fundamental principles embedded in the Constitution. They may often disagree about how to define and apply those values, but that’s simply the nature of a pluralistic, open society. With such a diverse population and a wide range of viewpoints, it shouldn’t be surprising that many see little value in a pledge exercise.

At a minimum, parents should talk with their kids about the Pledge – about what it means, what it doesn’t mean, and even its history. For starters, kids should understand that the exercise is voluntary, because many schools don’t inform them of this. And whether individual children decide to participate or not, all kids should understand that nonparticipation is not unpatriotic or disrespectful in any way. The reverse side of the same coin would point out that participation doesn’t make one a patriot.


Read more here.

33 comments on “Have You Talked with Your Kids About Pledging Allegiance?

  • It looks like the kids in that photo are giving a nazi salute. Unfortunate or carefully chosen? I have to say that, for me (non-American), the enforced patriotism echoes more fascist or communist societies than freedom-loving democracies.

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  • The American Religious Right will just use this as “prrof” that atheists are unpatriotic. It simply won’t occur to them that what they are doing is much worse

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  • Judging from the teacher’s pompadour Edwardian hairstyle, the photo was probably taken 1901-1909.

    Note the circular star emblem, (Betsy Ross flag?). The “salute” is enigmatic; perhaps it is fervent allegiance to Teddy R., or the students are children of recent immigrants (you’re in America now!).

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  • ” by extending the right arm, palm upward, ”

    The kids were a little off on palm upward. The photo predates the ” under magic man ” nonsense though the pledge then was no more compuserary then than now.

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  • Before the change, the pledged contained the string, “one nation indivisible”. After the change the pledge contained the string, “one nation under god”. I have never changed the way I recite the pledge. I say one nation indivisible. I say the word, indivisible, very loud. I think this is better than refusing to take the pledge.

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  • 11
    hisxmark says:

    When I was a kid in Catholic school, I (discretely) considered the irony of praying to a piece of cloth every morning. Religious persons, or patriotic persons, are simply absurd.

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  • I suppose that countries such as the USA, Brazil, Argentina, that are made up of immigrants from all over the world, need some sort of “rite” to create a common national feeling among their varied population, however, if this Pledge is voluntary and the kids haven’t been informed about it, then the educational establishment has been dishonest with them. No one has the right to “issue certificates” of patriotism based on whether you recite the Pledge or not. There’s a lot of hypocrisy about this, it’s amazing the large number of patriots to whom you could apply the famous pronouncement made by Dr Samuel Johnson: ” patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. I understand that a nation must be under the rule of Law, voted by its free citizens, and not under the rule of God, as many of these Pledges of Allegiance usually claim.

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  • 17
    Ted Foureagles says:

    On my first day in the first grade in a North Carolina school I ran afoul of The Pledge. I was pretty sure that I knew what a pledge was, but was unclear on allegiance. And so I just stood there listening and said nothing. That was no big deal that day, because a lot of the other kids hadn’t heard it yet either and didn’t know what they were expected to say. By the next day, however, I’d decided that I wanted nothing to do with it, and didn’t even stand. It had nothing to do with the God part — I just wasn’t going to promise about something I didn’t understand. That drew the attention of my teacher, who sent me to the Principal who gave me a lecture on Patriotism and honor to God and sent me home with a sealed note.

    I was shaking in my little cowboy boots when I presented the letter to Dad. He was not a warm & fuzzy guy. He had served under Patton, and openly admired “that goddamn bastard” in Dad’s words. I felt worse when he picked up the phone and called the school Principal. Dad sat and listened for a while, unusual for him, and then said, “Well then I’m damn proud of the boy”. Could have knocked me over with a feather!

    Of course that wasn’t the end of it. Dad gave me a stern lecture on patriotic duty and how I might have to some day put my individuality below common good, but that I should never surrender my values to authority on simple demand, as the school had asked. Mom, a social Christian and ever the pragmatist, suggested that I stand and recite with everyone else but substitute “Under Law” for “Under God”.


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  • . Nationalism / patriotism ? Not for me thank you. I would prefer a world without countries.
    Of course I realise that countries are political constructs. Mr DArcy.

    The one point of common ground I have with those of the Jehovah’s Witness faith. Of course they express the thought differently ( we’re all god’s children) and I like to think that we’re all just people, bumping along, trying to get by as best we can. I distrust flag waving, anthem singing, pledge taking patriotism. I really distrust appeals to patriotism as the last refuge of the scoundrel.
    I usually manage to disarm JW’s at our door, by saying that we have points of agreement (they’re accustomed to people dismissing them out of hand.)

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  • My children grew up outside the United States, so this was never an issue. I strongly urge all parents to read James Clavell’s “The Childrens’ Story” with their children. It’s a beautifully written little piece that delves deep into the nature of loyalty and allegiance in just a few pages. I talked about it with my kids, and I think it may have helped them to think about the distinctions between their country, culture and government.

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  • I am an Australian, but worked in the US for some years. For me the psychological pressure implicit when this pledge is trotted out at events (such as sports) was palpable, and deeply oppressive. I did not let that stop me from not taking part, but there was always a threat there when I did so. You can say that I am just oversensitive, but I pity any sensitive child growing up in that environment. As Richard Dawkins says of pushing religion on the young; it is child abuse.

    What I deeply lament is that there are people who want this sort of madness to become the norm here in Australia as well.

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  • 22
    ripHITCH says:

    It’s a cycle of brainwashing. Religion, as Dawkins and others have pointed out, is handed down, like viruses and DNA. But, it’s tough to blame my parents, when they were victims of the same. They truly believe what they say they do, and they thought they were doing the right thing by raising me in the church (southern Baptist).

    I was raised in this kind of environment (Jews are god’s “chosen people” (racist), Armageddon will come, the U.S. is also an agent of the lord, etc – very fundamentalist. I spent large parts of every day brooding over my eternal soul, imagining what heaven would be like, and hell, – all that crap. Fairy tales and false hopes, all buttressed by fear and brainwashing.

    I (within the past year) finally built up the courage to listen to “the other side”, so I used Google and found some Hitchens debates.

    It was liberating.

    To see someone completely tear it all down to the level of BS that it really is – all of it. All religions. It’s a joke. Stories and laws. That’s it. It’s designed to keep people in check – especially the poor – so they don’t riot and kill all the rich people sitting at the top of the chain feeding the bs to the masses.

    Christians love buying books. And they particularly love buying books that support/reinforce their faith. They also like buying new bibles and differing version (KJV, NIV, etc 30+) – Jesus, how many translations are needed? “Let’s buy them all and compare so we get a complete picture….blah blah blah…”

    But, they really hate books that counter their views. That’s why they hate the “Four Horsemen”. They see the books on the shelf at the bookstore and shutter at the thought of questioning their faith. They’re scared that they will “lose their faith” if they even question it. Fear. Fear. Fear.

    I just refuse to follow blindly in their footsteps anymore, marching towards death, believing a bunch of nonsense that makes life twisted and delusional. Reviling gays, judging others, arguing over theological crap.

    I try to make no assumptions. They make many assumptions (it’s called faith). It’s nothing more than false hopes for survivability beyond the grave – pascal’s wager is alive and well.

    It’s tough. I’m somewhat of an apostate to my family now. I’m sure they view me as arrogant now – that I think I have all the answers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The truth shall set you free. I would agree with that.

    The truth is, religion is a lie.

    Ironically, theology is what enslaves.

    Thanks for the freedom, ye Four Horseman.

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  • ripHITCH Sep 12, 2014 at 11:43 am

    They make many assumptions (it’s called faith). It’s nothing more than false hopes for survivability beyond the grave – pascal’s wager is alive and well.

    If any theist raises Pascal’s wager with you – mention Pascal’s TRUE WAGER!

    There have been thousands of gods worshipped on Earth – many vengeful gods demanding exclusivity! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deities

    How do theists know they have chosen the “right” one!
    The odds are not the assumed 50:50 atheism v some default god.
    The odds of picking the “right god” from thousands, are thousands to one against!!

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  • 25
    aquilacane says:

    Pledge… what is this, a fund raiser? It’s so creepy to watch authoritarian followers do their thing. Zombies have been alive and well for a long time. Toronto is about to vote in an authority worshipper in the name of John Tory. It is so painful to listen to him try and say something critical of the police or religion. No spine I’m afraid.

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  • Pledging allegiance to the American flag is pledging allegiance to the US Constitution, not to some personality cult of potentially authoritarian figure. In fact, the Constitution is geared to prevent that very thing from gaining control. Whether or not the Constitution is lived up to in every instance, or every interpretation of it agreed upon, etc. will always exist. But does that make it wrong to pledge to the ideals the flag represents? I think not.

    Whether or not a person wants to say the phrase “under God” or not should be personal. If that’s offensive, one can make his/her substitution known only to himself/herself. If, in the future, the phrase, “under God”, officially reverts back to “indivisible”, so be it. However, I do believe that having reference to God, almost generic in nature, is not coercive, and does not violate the separation of church and state.

    Whether or not the pledge should be voluntary or not, I’m struggling with that part. As a teacher in a US high school, I purposely did not have the class say it every day to try and prevent it from becoming a rote exercise. And I did not look to identify those who might no be saying it.

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  • A little of 40 years ago my son came home from his Kindergarten call and his first report card. I read through it and found that besides the standard learning items there on the second page a list of 5 things he “knew”, such as how to tie his shoes, but it was the last item that seemed out of place to he, this was that he “Knew” the Plead of Allegiance. while seeing him to his bed that night I asked him if he did really “know” the Pledge of Allegiance, he told that he did know it. I asked him if he knew what a Pledge was, and he did not, I asked if he knew what an allegiance was, and he id not, I asked if he knew what either a democracy or Republic was and again he did not. The next day I asked the teacher about this and she told me, first raising her hands, you have to ask the “School Board”. And it is the School Boards that are made up of people who often hold very strong religious beliefs, yet it is to a very high degree these Boards that make the rules that govern what our children will learn.

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  • Lillian Gobitas Klose, whose refusal, on religious grounds, to recite
    the Pledge of Allegiance as a seventh grader in a Pennsylvania public
    school in 1935 ignited national indignation, as well as a roiling
    legal fight that led to an expansion of First Amendment rights, died
    on Aug. 22 at her home in Fayetteville, Ga. She was 90.


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  • 30
    aquilacane says:

    Pledging allegiance to the American flag is pledging allegiance to the US Constitution

    People aren’t pledging allegiance because of some flag or any constitution, they pledge allegiance because they are told to and they think they have to. If the pledge of allegiance were to mean anything at all, it would be given not asked for. Any pledge that is not freely given of one’s own accord, at the time of their choosing for the purpose of their own determination, can not be considered an honest pledge; especially when it occurs every day, over and over. It’s bullying and brainwashing and it means nothing at all.

    I would guess, most people who make the pledge don’t question what they are told to do because they only know how to be told what to do. Considering most of them are kids, they don’t even know why. Pity, for a free country, the USA sure has a lot of irrelevant behavioral rules. Patriotism is the law.

    Whether or not a person wants to say the phrase “under God” or not should be personal. If that’s offensive, one can make his/her substitution known only to himself/herself. If, in the future, the phrase, “under God”, officially reverts back to “indivisible”, so be it.

    What if it’s whether or not the person wants to say the pledge? What if an American born person doesn’t have allegiance to the flag or constitution but would rather use the democratic process to it’s fullest permissions and remove both the flag and the constitution as old useless things that need to go? What if they don’t accept pledges as a relevant undertakings with any real value or meaning and chose not to be subjected to acts of, what they consider, stupidity?

    However, I do believe that having reference to God, almost generic in nature, is not coercive, and does not violate the separation of church and state.

    I find it symbolic of our ignorance and a testimony to our pathetic need for ritual, culture and personal beliefs over reasoned, relevant and productive alternatives. Indivisible is a laugh as well, it’s one of the most divided countries I have ever been in. It is divisible block by freaking block, in some neighbourhoods. Cross the street you die.

    Whether or not the pledge should be voluntary or not, I’m struggling with that part.

    I guess it depends on whether or not speech should be free. If the pledge is mandatory, my speech is not free. Free speech means I speak freely, mandatory speech means I do not speak freely. But, forced allegiance has bolstered many an army in the past; of course, it was at the point of a sword (we use courts today). I guess bolstering armies is still the ultimate goal. We learn well from history; shame it’s only how to repeat it.

    Why not provide a country people want to freely pledge themselves to and be happy with those that do? We typically only make something mandatory when a lack of desire renders it compromised.

    Go freedom USA!!!

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  • 33
    ianw16 says:

    Is one reason I will never sing the national anthem in the UK. “God save the queen”? Do me a favour. This when reputable polls tell us more people in this country are atheist or agnostic than religious. Won’t sing it, won’t apologise for not doing so. Hence the furore when the eejit of a prime minister we have described us as a christian nation. Complete b*llocks.
    Glad I’m not in the U.S. If I was, Canada would look a very tempting option.

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