After making the long walk from the foyer to a third floor classroom, you take a seat, letting your legs rest from the several stairs that you just completed. The chatter between friends fills the room and the teacher attempts to quiet the classroom, but after failing several times, resorts to the attendance list. A piercing beep sounds, making it evident that the announcements are beginning. The voice of Trent DeBonis works as an alarm clock, but some kids just try to hit snooze.
“Please rise for a moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance.”
This familiar phrase is said on a daily basis and many go through the motions; they rise, put their right hand over their heart, and then wait to be able to sit again. Suddenly the classroom that was once filled with unrelenting chatter is dead silent. Except for the brave few who decide to break this silence and proudly say the pledge. Another brave few decide to not even rise for the pledge.
The pledge is said in high schools all over the country. But what separates our generation from previous ones is the fact that many opt not to say it.
Teachers cannot force students to rise for the pledge; it is completely in students’ power to decide what they will do. According to AHS history teacher Mr. Bach, the pledge used to be forced upon students until the early 1950s, when the Supreme Court decided that it could not be forced upon them because of First Amendment rights.
But why do these high schoolers make this decision to not stand or recite the pledge? Is it purely out of fear of social pressure, or is it a desire for change in the country?
AHS sophomore Chloe Hanrahan is often asked why she does not stand for the pledge. When asked her reasoning, she said, “I don’t believe in God and there is God in the Pledge.”
She later added, “The only other nations that I’m aware of that require their children to say it every day are Nazi Germany and North Korea. That doesn’t settle well with me.” She added that she believes it would be deemed unfair if a teacher required a student to stand for the pledge, noting, “There could be kids for numerous reasons that don’t want to stand for it and it shouldn’t be required because students should be able to have their own opinions.”
On the other side, AHS junior Nick Germano takes pride in the United States and is always sure to say the pledge every day. He said, “I’d never discriminate against someone who was to sit for the pledge, but I feel like no matter how much you disagree with our country’s stances on certain policies, you owe it to the people who died to give you the right to even think about sitting for it.” Despite having no family affiliation with the military, Germano honors his country and the rights that the soldiers have provided us with. Because of this, he believes others should take a step back if they are refusing to stand and think about why and how, despite the controversy that surrounds the U.S., there are still people who lose their lives for the country.
According to polling company Rasmussen Reports, 68 percent of American adults believe students should be required to say the pledge. On the flip side, 25 percent, or 1 in 4 American adults, believe that students should not be required to say it. Nowhere in the AHS Student Handbook does it say that students are required to say the pledge despite these statistics, but the number who decide not to rise has increased in the past few years.
When asked about his view on the pledge, Bach was quick to say that students should never be forced to stand up for or say the pledge. Later on he was asked if he ever looks down on a student who refuses to stand or say it, and he replied, “Absolutely not. It is their Constitutional right not to stand and it would be improper for me to violate that and force them to do something.”
His personal view on pledges is this: “I don’t place as much value on pledges. I think that they are a sign of forced loyalty to something.”
AHS history teacher Mrs. Vives grew up reciting the pledge out of habit and continues to say it every day. She would never discriminate against students who refuse to say the pledge and believes that some students do not say it merely out of laziness or peer pressure and not to insult the country. When asked why she continues to say the pledge, she said, “I feel proud to be an American.” Despite having some criticisms of the United States, she said she believes that America, her home, is the best place to be.
Like Vives, AHS sophomore Ashwin Ganesh stands every day and recites the pledge but has no reasoning behind it. He claims that he is ignorant to the fact that he is saying the pledge and does it out of the respect for the request made on the loudspeaker.
But through all the controversy surrounding the decisions that people make about the pledge, Vives thinks that it is essential that “people should think hard about why they are not saying it as well as why they are.”
By Livy Hodge