As the last stragglers make their way into their first block classes, a cheerful voice cuts through the lethargic, tired atmosphere that exudes from the countless teenagers filling Andover High School. Following the brief “moment of silence,” a few students proceed by standing up sluggishly, in a manner that mirrors a marionette being tugged on by an inexperienced puppeteer. A few mumbled words and dead stares later, everyone is back in their seats again, absorbed by small, glowing screens in their hands that seem to allure their attention entirely.
The Pledge of Allegiance is a morning ritual that is taught at an early age. At the beginning of elementary school, the young and impressionable children are taught combinations of words they do not yet understand, and are told to recite them each day without question or argument. Obediently, with their right hand over their hearts, each student conforms innocently to the standard set by those around them and obeys. Junior Melanie Hilman had a similar experience. She said, “I was just taught to memorize it and recite it. I barely understood what I was saying at all.”
This method of conformity within our public school system is both disturbing and hypocritical. In school, students are meant to become independent thinkers who are eventually able to fend for themselves and make decisions based on their individual judgment. Yet the pledge is a way for young children to be exposed to the hidden propaganda put forth by our government in order to instill a false American ideal. The students in public schools are being taught to think the same way about our country’s principles, and therefore are being falsely shielded from the situations arising each day in our country that contradict the Pledge and the American values that are stated within it.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk surrounding the violent murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The ending of the Pledge states that there is liberty and justice for all. In terms of justice, both of these cases reflect the justices that do not exist “for all.” Same-sex marriage laws in our country reflect the liberties that citizens lack, working class women are often still denied the same pay rates as men, and racial discrimination remains a very relevant and notorious subject.
In a previous article in the Warrior Weekly, Mr. Hopkins of the social studies department stated, “To me, a student of history, this nation’s flag doesn’t just stand for freedom and democracy. U.S. policies have consistently abetted criminal activities and injustices; this country has not always taken the high ground.”
However, some people believe that the Pledge of Allegiance is an important tradition that should be kept and followed in order to maintain a patriotic feeling within the youth of this county. Ms. Ead, a math teacher at AHS, said, “I get disappointed in the students when they don’t say it, because I believe that a lot of students don’t appreciate the meaning of the Pledge and its strength as Americans. Too many traditional things are getting wiped away from our country’s society and I do not think that the Pledge of Allegiance should be one to follow.”
Although nationalistic pride is important to the people of our nation, students should not feel obliged to show their patriotic faith through the Pledge. Every citizen has the right to express his or her own beliefs in our country and should feel liberated to do so.
For some students, following the tradition of the morning Pledge over countless years has caused it to lose its meaning. Sophomore Sophie Uluatam said, “As I’ve matured, I have occasionally reflected on the meaning of the Pledge, but I seldom do. I suppose that saying it every morning has merely trained me to recite the words, as opposed to analyze and internalize their meaning.”
Students are not required to stand and recite the Pledge, according to social studies teacher Mr. Bach, who said, “The Supreme Court clearly ruled that students don’t have to say [the Pledge of Allegiance], and they are not obligated to stand for it. So, saying that students should say it, or telling students [they] should stand up during it, even for purposes of respect can still be considered twisting their arm or at worst, coercion or bullying.”
Since reciting the Pledge is obviously a personal choice, some students have very strong opinions on whether or not it should be implemented in Andover High School. Irene Yang, a senior, said, “Personally, I think the [Pledge of Allegiance] is similar to a chant under Hitler in the Third Reich. It’s creepy hearing little kids pledge their allegiance to a country.” Although Yang’s response may seem extreme, every student has the right to her or his own opinion on the subject.
The variety of opinions on the subject are a reminder that students are allowed to choose whether or not they will conform to the tradition. Amrutha Palaniyappan, junior, said, “While I believe there should be unity within the school, I feel that the pledge is not the appropriate way to foster that unity.”
By Mari Nagahara