COLUMN: Kids aren’t thinking when pledging their allegiance

Allison Pritchard

I look back on my days as a naive, pig-tailed elementary school student, and I remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every single school day. It was the morning ritual. A bell would sound and the entire school would unenthusiastically pick themselves up from their desks and haphazardly throw one hand on their hearts to recite the pledge in a drone-like murmur.

The pledge was just another part of the daily motions I assumed were normal.

I’ll always remember my classmate Tim, who never stood up to recite the pledge. If any of the other kids didn’t recite the pledge, they would get yelled at by our teacher (the most horrible thing in the world at the time). But not Tim; he was excused. It turns out he was a Jehovah’s Witness, and he believed pledging to a false idol was sinful because all governments are ultimately instituted by the devil. I thought he was a silly oddball at the time.

But now that I know a bit more about the world around me, I understand a little more why he didn’t say the pledge.

The idea sideswiped me in the middle of singing (well, actually staring into space and sort of mouthing) the national anthem during a football game: Does the typical eight-year-old even understand the pledge?

I wonder if children even comprehend the words they recite (allegiance, republic, indiv-what-a-ble?). I sure as hell know I didn’t. It was just another thing we did because they made us. It all became so monotonous that the words became void of meaning.

Even if a child fully understands what she is saying, the pledge is likely to become a mechanical recitation. Kids become chanting drones, forced into a mass indoctrination. Pledging allegiance to a flag, an inanimate object, has become a forced value. Students don’t get to choose whether they want to sell their souls to a corrupt government they know nothing about. Note that Germans persecuted Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust for refusing to pledge allegiance to Hitler.

It’s really adorable that children learn not to question the government (or other institutions for that matter) at such a young age. They learn that rulers must always be right.

After years of court decisions concerning the unconstitutionality of the “under God” part of the pledge (added in 1954 so America could differentiate itself from “godless communism”), not all students are required to recite the pledge. Ever since a September ruling by a federal judge, it’s considered unconstitutional to force public school children to recite the “under God” part, although some politicians such as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have been urging school districts to appeal. Maybe he should just “Hasta la vista.”

I thought I’d bring up different issues regarding the pledge because I know we’ve all heard the same tiresome debates. I’m not saying the pledge is evil, and I’m not being “unpatriotic.” I’m just saying we need to rethink if we should force kids to recite something they don’t understand or necessarily believe in. School children’s minds are too impressionable to be ingrained with blind faith in a flag, a religion and a government.

Allison Pritchard is a Junior Electronic Media Production major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].