Editorial: Pledge of Allegiance should not be recited in school

By Editorial Board

It’s the preamble to the morning announcements, a 121-year-old tradition and a declaration of nationalism. It’s our Pledge of Allegiance—our daily vow to stand by the American Flag.

But the traditionally formal recitation of the Pledge has been replaced with a largely ignored daily announcement. Students are often too lazy to recite the Pledge, and teachers are frequently reduced to forcing their students to stand up. Because students no longer show respect for the Pledge, Maryland should repeal its law requiring schools to recite the Pledge daily.

The history of the Pledge dates back to 1892, when Christian Socialist Francis Bellamy wrote the iconic words to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World. The Pledge then spread across American schools as a way to support national unity after the Civil War. Later, the Pledge was modified to include the words “Under God” in 1954, a decision influenced by American involvement in the Cold War and wishes to distance the U.S. ideologically from the non-religious communist states, according to Jeffrey Owen Jones of Smithsonian Magazine.

Maryland is one of only seven states to require students to recite the Pledge, along with Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas, according to the Education Commision of the States. The MCPS Student’s Guide to Rights and Responsibilities affirms students’ right to opt out of the activity, stating specifically that they cannot be forced to participate in patriotic exercises. This rule was tested this past April when a teacher forced Enidris Siurano-Rodriguez, a Damascus High School student from Puerto Rico, to stand for the Pledge.

Siurano-Rodriguez’s case, which was publicized by NBC and the Washington Post, is only one example of this phenomenon. Teachers frequently require their students to stand and/or recite the Pledge—an informal survey of 60 students found that over 50 percent of students at some point noticed a teacher forcing a student to stand for the Pledge or were involved in an incident themselves. Such a high frequency demonstrates that the previously well-respected Pledge has since devolved to a mindless chore.

Students have many reasons to not participate in the Pledge. Some refuse to say it on religious grounds, arguing that the words “Under God” break the division between church and state. Others object to the Pledge for political reasons, saying that it is too propagandistic or is a violation of political freedom. There are also a significant number of international students who would rather pledge allegiance to their own country’s flag.

And of course, there’s an ever-growing population of students who are too lazy to stand or simply don’t have enough time to put their bag down before the announcements, as the Black & White noticed after conducting a hallway walkthrough during the Pledge recitation.

It’s true that the Pledge is an easy, well-known patriotic display. But teaching students from a young age to mindlessly recite slogans goes against the independent, critical thinking we teach in schools. If the Pledge no longer carries its traditional meaning—and students suggest that’s the case—then it’s time that we come up with a new way to begin the school day.