Excluding Patriots - The Problem with the Pledge of Allegiance at School
The biggest problem with the Pledge of Allegiance is that it is not patriotic enough!
In every school district in America, today, tens of thousands of patriotic students are not only deprived of the opportunity to express and develop their patriotism, but they are actively discouraged!
Children cannot be expected to go against their conscience, and with no other option, they are shut out. Though enjoined by State Boards of Education to offer all students an appropriate daily patriotic exercise, the schools afford Pledge-abstaining students no alternative but silence and exclusion.
We need "Patriotism for All" in our schools, regardless of belief.
OTHER PROBLEMS: There are other issues that an alternative to the current practice would help alleviate, as well:
- Personal -
Non-participating children can easily feel confused and marginalized, and lose respect for authority.
- Social -
The fact that some students sit in silence while others stand and recite introduces a divisive element into the classroom - especially when student's are not regularly reminded of the rights of their fellow students, their teachers and themselves. The problem with silence is that no one can know why you are abstaining. It is too easy to suspect someone lack of patriotism or make religious assumptions. This is especially true in the schools if students are not regularly informed of their right not to participate, and reminded, too, that they should respect those who do not.
- Civic -
The very purpose of a "Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag" is to provide a means of demonstrating patriotism and engendering national unity. Ironically, instituting a Pledge that literally excludes millions of Americans not only interferes with the patriotism and national unity the Pledge was meant to engender, but it actually fosters divisiveness.
- Legal -
In many states, the recommendation that the Pledge is an appropriate exercise is inconsistent with other State laws, including:
- Recently adopted in California, Religion Education Code, Section 60044(a) and Subsection (b) specifically requires that, "Any explanation or description of a religious belief...should be presented in a manner that does not encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any particular religious belief." (1)
- California State Education Code Section 60040, states, "When adopting instructional materials for use in schools, governing boards shall include only instructional materials which...accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society..."
- And Article IX, Section 8, Constitution of the State of California, states, "nor shall any sectarian or denominational doctrine be taught, or instruction thereon permitted, directly or in directly, in any of the common schools of this state."
- Unconstitutional? -
There is the real possibility that - ironically - conducting the religious Pledge in schools is skirting the edges of being constitutional. Why otherwise patriotic citizens would take this risk is hard to understand. Is practicing religion, more important than protecting the freedom to practice religion?