Sunday, May 24, 2015

That's right, Kevin. You don't have to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance

Another Memorial Day is upon us and if you have a facebook account, I'm sure you've seen a steady stream of memes commemorating our men and women in uniform.  One of my favorites is this one about little Kevin who apparently doesn't understand the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.  This kind of "shaming" is not unusual.

Apparently, a lot of schools do make their students stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, resulting in a growing sense of resentment and outrage among parents and students, particularly those who object to the line, "one Nation under God" which was amended to the pledge in 1954.  The idea that we live in a plural secular society seems lost on a great number of people, who see public schools as a way of inculcating what they believe to be American "values."

The "Pledge" was not formally adopted by Congress until 1942, during time of war when many felt Americans had to show their loyalty to the nation.  Initially, it was conceived as a way of commemorating the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering America for a children's magazine, The Youth's Companion.  It was written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, who chose not to include any religious reference.

It wasn't long before you saw images like this one in elementary schools across the country.  The problem with forcing kids to recite a pledge or do anything against their will is that it breeds resentment, not loyalty, particularly if a kid feels he has been shamed into it.   There is already too much peer pressure and bullying in high schools.  If you want children to understand the role wars have had in shaping this country you do so in history class, not turn them into little "pioneers" reciting national pledges and passages from the Bible, which seems to be what religious conservatives in this country would like to see done in schools.

This Memorial Day it would be nice to see a more somber note of reflection for the men and women who died serving this country in combat, remembering that this holiday was born out of the aftermath of the Civil War, with the intent of healing a divided nation.

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