Pledge Of Allegiance Essay

The Pledge of Allegiance is an important tradition of American education that dates back to the early 1890s when James UpThe Pledge of Allegiance is an important tradition of American education that dates back to the early 1890s when James Upham, the head of circulation at the children’s magazine The Youth’s Companion, developed a campaign that encouraged children across the United States to raise money for the purchase of flags in their classrooms. As a result of his, and the children’s, efforts over 30,000 flags were eventually purchased across the country.

With the success of the flag campaign, Upham decided to create a pledge that students would recite each morning as the flag was raised in their classroom or school. Francis J. Bellamy, one of the magazine’s editors, actually wrote the pledge. Heavily involved in the promotion of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (where The Youth’s Companion was based). Bellamy made the pledge an important component of the plans he put together to celebrate Columbus Day (October 12) as a national holiday. As a result, federal education officials sent out copies of Bellamy’s pledge to teachers throughout the nation.

The Pledge of Allegiance was consciously created as a means of inspiring patriotism among public school children, an idea that was thought to be particularly important with recently arrived immigrant populations. Often students would mindlessly repeat the pledge, however, without understanding its meaning, sometimes even substituting what they thought were the words, rather than its actual content. Amusing examples of these mistakes include: “I pledge the pigeons to the flag,” “and to the republic for witches stands,” “one nation under guard,” “invisible” “with liberty and jelly for all.”

In spite of the inaccuracies of student recitations of the pledge, its daily recitation quickly became part of the culture of American schools. Its official content, however, did not remain fixed. Bellamy’s original pledge (1892) was: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands—one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” At National Flag Conferences held in 1923 and 1924, the pledge was changed to: “I pledge allegiance to the

Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1954 the pledge was changed once more by resolution of the U.S. Congress to include the words “under God”: “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.” The pledge has often engendered controversy. In 1940, the Supreme Court decided in the case of Minersville School District v. Gobitis that children who refused to salute the flag as a part of regular school exercises could be compelled to do so. That decision was overturned in 1943 in the Supreme Court decision of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. In this decision, Justices Hugo Black and William Douglas reasoned that students had the right to remain silent and not take place in the pledge ceremony. According to them: “Words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing, but self-interest. Love of country must spring from willing hearts and free minds.”

The Barnette decision was usually interpreted as maintaining the religious rights of the plaintiffs, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose religious beliefs precluded them from giving allegiance to the flag, which represented a sovereign political system that they saw as subordinate to God. During the 1960s and the upheaval of the Vietnam War, the Barnette decision was extended to protect students who did not want to salute the flag as a matter of moral conscience, since they felt it symbolized the political power that was waging what they believed was an unjust war in Vietnam. In March of 2004, the United States Supreme Court heard Michael Newdow present the case that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional by suggesting that those who do not believe in God are wrong in their beliefs. Newdow argued that this represented a violation of the Establishment clause of the Constitution, which maintains the right of citizens to pursue or not pursue their religious beliefs based on their personal conviction. U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olsen and Elk Grove School District Attorney Terence J. Cassidy countered Newdow’s argument, maintaining that the use of the phrase “under God” was “descriptive” and “ceremonial” and not a “religious invocation” or prayer.

In June of the same year, the Court maintained that Newdow was not qualified to sue the Court and left the Pledge intact. In September of 2005, a federal judge in Sacramento determined that having public school children recite the words “under God” as part of the Pledge was a violation of their First Amendment rights.

Today, the Pledge of Allegiance continues to be an important part of the culture and tradition of American classrooms. While celebrating the United States and its political values and ideologies, the right of students not to participate in its recitation also addresses the country’s important traditions of free speech, religious toleration, and diversity. Despite its acceptance, the Constitutionally of the use of the Pledge in schools continues to be open to debate.

With the success of the flag campaign, Upham decided to create a pledge that students would recite each morning as the flag was raised in their classroom or school. Francis J. Bellamy, one of the magazine’s editors, actually wrote the pledge. Heavily involved in the promotion of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (where The Youth’s Companion was based). Bellamy made the pledge an important component of the plans he put together to celebrate Columbus Day (October 12) as a national holiday. As a result, federal education officials sent out copies of Bellamy’s pledge to teachers throughout the nation.

The Pledge of Allegiance was consciously created as a means of inspiring patriotism among public school children, an idea that was thought to be particularly important with recently arrived immigrant populations. Often students would mindlessly repeat the pledge, however, without understanding its meaning, sometimes even substituting what they thought were the words, rather than its actual content. Amusing examples of these mistakes include: “I pledge the pigeons to the flag,” “and to the republic for witches stands,” “one nation under guard,” “invisible” “with liberty and jelly for all.”

In spite of the inaccuracies of student recitations of the pledge, its daily recitation quickly became part of the culture of American schools. Its official content, however, did not remain fixed. Bellamy’s original pledge (1892) was: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands—one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” At National Flag Conferences held in 1923 and 1924, the pledge was changed to: “I pledge allegiance to the

Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1954 the pledge was changed once more by resolution of the U.S. Congress to include the words “under God”: “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.” The pledge has often engendered controversy. In 1940, the Supreme Court decided in the case of Minersville School District v. Gobitis that children who refused to salute the flag as a part of regular school exercises could be compelled to do so. That decision was overturned in 1943 in the Supreme Court decision of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. In this decision, Justices Hugo Black and William Douglas reasoned that students had the right to remain silent and not take place in the pledge ceremony. According to them: “Words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing, but self-interest. Love of country must spring from willing hearts and free minds.”

The Barnette decision was usually interpreted as maintaining the religious rights of the plaintiffs, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose religious beliefs precluded them from giving allegiance to the flag, which represented a sovereign political system that they saw as subordinate to God. During the 1960s and the upheaval of the Vietnam War, the Barnette decision was extended to protect students who did not want to salute the flag as a matter of moral conscience, since they felt it symbolized the political power that was waging what they believed was an unjust war in Vietnam. In March of 2004, the United States Supreme Court heard Michael Newdow present the case that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional by suggesting that those who do not believe in God are wrong in their beliefs. Newdow argued that this represented a violation of the Establishment clause of the Constitution, which maintains the right of citizens to pursue or not pursue their religious beliefs based on their personal conviction. U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olsen and Elk Grove School District Attorney Terence J. Cassidy countered Newdow’s argument, maintaining that the use of the phrase “under God” was “descriptive” and “ceremonial” and not a “religious invocation” or prayer.

In June of the same year, the Court maintained that Newdow was not qualified to sue the Court and left the Pledge intact. In September of 2005, a federal judge in Sacramento determined that having public school children recite the words “under God” as part of the Pledge was a violation of their First Amendment rights.

Today, the Pledge of Allegiance continues to be an important part of the culture and tradition of American classrooms. While celebrating the United States and its political values and ideologies, the right of students not to participate in its recitation also addresses the country’s important traditions of free speech, religious toleration, and diversity. Despite its acceptance, the Constitutionally of the use of the Pledge in schools continues to be open to debate.

Bibliography:

  1. Ellis, R. (2005). To the flag: The unlikely history of the Pledge of Allegiance. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.
  2. Provenzo, E. F., Jr., & Provenzo, A. B. (1991). Columbus and the pledge. American School Board Journal, 178(10), 24–25.

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