Pledge or No Pledge-A debate that is more than Patriotic

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Last year, Hug High School’s Daily Announcements all contained the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of every video. However, as the school’s Leadership program undergoes a few changes, they have seemed to have parted ways with the Pledge as it no longer kicks off their videos. Before any assumptions are made, from my understanding during the quick interview with the Leadership class, the absence of the Pledge seems to be the result of pressure on Leadership to start putting out announcement video as opposed to waiting for Leadership to establish a structure for the announcements.

The absence of the Pledge seems to have sparked an interesting conversation about whether or not Leadership has an obligation to air the Pledge during these announcements. But to understand this conversation, one must first understand the Pledge.

The Pledge of Allegiance in the United States of America appears to hold a special weight to it that can rarely be found in other countries. To set the U.S. apart even more, it is quite common for schools in America to recite the pledge while on campus. Though, this characteristic seems to be unique to the U.S. since pledging your allegiance to one’s nation is something that not many countries do during class. The only other country where this is a common occurrence in North Korea, where kids as young as the age of 7 are required to pledge their allegiance to Kim Jong Un. But of course, despite the common practice, the Pledge in the U.S. symbolizes something entirely different than that of the North Korean pledge. 

The U.S Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia v. Barnette that it is unconstitutional to force kids to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Since we are given this liberty as Americans, I sat down with Major Blackburn, a military officer, and Mr. Johnson, an Iraq war veteran, to get a better understanding of how the Pledge should be handled moving forward. With both teachers being veterans, they held a significant relationship to the Pledge.

Major Blackburn says that the Pledge of Allegiance is simply “pledging allegiance to the country that has given you so much.” However, Mr. Johnson says “ideally, the reason why we would do the pledge of allegiance is to go ahead and establish unity.” He then goes on to explain how America has never truly been a single unified idea: “We were not even unified in that effort because there’s a significant population of people living in the United States who weren’t even considered human beings… so we’ve never actually been unified as the pledge would intend.”

The reality is, not everyone wants, or has, to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Both teachers have encountered this within their classrooms. “Some of them just want to sit there, even though we make them stand up,” said Maj. Blackburn. In Mr. Johnson’s classroom, he asks his students to do him the courtesy of not checking their phones for the 15 seconds that it is on, but still had students do so anyway. “Not having a mandatory pledge reduces my stress load more than it increases it,” he says. 

While the Pledge holds the same meaning for both men, putting the Pledge of Allegiance into the context of a school setting is where things start to differ. For Maj. Blackburn, the Pledge should “be aired no matter what.” But for Mr. Johnson, the larger context of America is what makes this question a lot more tricky. “It’s difficult with the current state of federal politics to go ahead and tell some students who may not be citizens, ‘Hey, act like a citizen even though you’re not… or you’ll get in trouble’.”

The ultimate question was if Leadership had an obligation to air the Pledge. And while both teachers are all for reciting the Pledge, Mr. Johnson clarified that when a school discusses the Pledge of Allegiance, the best interest of the study body must be taken into consideration. And the truth of the matter is, it is ultimately up to the Principal and Leadership to determine if it is in the students’ best interest. But where it stands right now, there is no legal requirement for Leadership to air the Pledge. Whether the Pledge of Allegiance makes a comeback or if it remains absent during the announcements is a choice that they are allowed to make. But in light of these two veterans’ points of view, it is definitely a difficult decision to make when wanting what is best for the student body.