Most high school kids haven’t said the Pledge of Allegiance since around sixth grade. However, the Kansas State Board of Education recently implemented a policy requiring every Kansas school to have its students say the Pledge on a regular basis.
According to Kansas Statute 72-5308, public schools need to provide a program for “patriotic exercises,” in whatever way fits the requirements of each particular school the best.
“We need to incorporate an opportunity for patriotic exercises, to put it into our school day,” said principal John McKinney. “And [for our interpretation of] the aspect that says ‘best fits the needs of the particular age groups,’ we made the choice to do it at the beginning of seminar.”
The main point McKinney wants to emphasize is that while schools are mandated to provide an opportunity for saying the Pledge, whether or not you say it is in fact technically optional.
“Whether you choose to do it –– stand, put your hand over your heart, read the Pledge –– or whether you choose to refrain from doing it, whatever choice you make has to be done respect- fully,” McKinney said. “If you just want to sit there and kind of qui- etly acknowledge something else, or do nothing, that’s fine as long as you’re doing so respectfully.”
East students have varying opinions on the issue of whether or not saying the Pledge as a school should be supported. Some, like sophomore Kate Danciger, feel it is important to acknowledge our country. She personally has patriotic feelings towards America, mostly due to the fact that her grandfather immigrated here and had the opportunity to achieve whatever he wanted. Still, Danciger agrees that a person shouldn’t be obligated to say it if they have a reason not to, like if they are from a different country.
One example of the students to whom Danciger is referring is sophomore Venus Gutierez, who moved to the United States from Venezuela at the age of five. She says saying the Pledge is not a big deal for her since she’s lived here so long, but since she and other students from different countries don’t have as much pride in this country as people who were born in America, it’s good that they aren’t required to say it.
Senior Maria Otero, an ex- change student from Spain, was confused during the recitation of the pledge.
“It was just like, all these people stood up and started saying it, and I was like, ‘I don’t know what this is but I’m not do- ing it,’” Otero said. “I didn’t want to be disrespectful but I thought it would be more disrespectful if I said it but didn’t feel it.”
On the flip side are people like junior Laura Fredrick, who do not believe the Pledge should be said in an organized, academic setting, and therefore oppose the new policy.
“I think the Pledge is kind of bordering on brainwashing, especially in elementary school,” Fredrick said. “These children have barely started to form opin- ions about their own lives, and they’re being forced to pledge allegiance to the United States without being able to consider, over the course of many years, whether or not this expression of patriotism is something they want to do. I have no problem with people deciding, of their own will, to say the Pledge of Allegiance in high school as long as they have truly thought about what they are pledging allegiance to.”
Some people don’t mind the pledge itself, but feel uncomfortable using the phrase “under God,” like senior Carley Allen, who feels this makes the Pledge problematic where it could other- wise be a good thing.
“I’m fine with the Pledge, but having the word God in it makes it so that not everybody feels included and the Pledge is about uniting the country and you can’t do that with a word that is so dividing,” Allen said.
According to Allen, who wrote her argument essay on this topic in English 11AP last year, the Pledge began as a rebuttal to the Soviet Union. Since the Soviet Union was void of religion, and there was a lot of tension between the countries during the Cold War, Americans wanted to feel superior by showing their faithfulness. Nowadays though, Allen says using the word God is no longer appropriate considering the diverse I religions of people living in the United States, especially those with multiple gods.
“I don’t hate America,” Allen said. “I just don’t like the Pledge of Allegiance and having [the word] God in it.”
As for McKinney, he encourages the recitation of the Pledge.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” McKinney said. “I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who sees it differently, in the same way that I wouldn’t expect them to begrudge the way I feel about it. It gives us, if nothing else, a moment to sort of reflect on how fortu- nate we are to be in such a wonderful country and take advantage of all the freedoms that we have available.”