To pledge or not to pledge?

September 23, 2013 — by Kelly Xiao and Ashley Chen

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America … one nation, under God … with liberty and justice for all.”

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America … one nation, under God … with liberty and justice for all.”

You know how it goes. After all, you’ve been saying the words all your life, especially if you attended Redwood Middle School. But is the Pledge needed?

The truth is that it does little to encourage patriotism. It includes the controversial phrase “under God” that violates one’s freedom of religion by showing a clear bias against atheists. For these reasons, the Redwood should follow Saratoga High School’s example and not use class time to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  
The most important issue the Pledge of Allegiance raises is the separation between church and state. It states that America is a nation “under God,” which contradicts the First Amendment’s establishment that religion has no effect on one’s patriotism. This questionable wording disregards our nation’s founding document by implying that atheists are not truly part of America because they are not “under God.”
In addition, the Pledge of Allegiance, when blindly recited, fails to inspire patriotism. The flag salute does not universally represent one’s love for America. People attach different meanings to different objects, and for that reason the Pledge of Allegiance means nothing to bored middle school students. To those who feel they have no choice but to say it, it may, at worst, become a symbol of oppression. 
Currently, Redwood’s version of the Pledge of Allegiance requires students to stand and recite the words out loud. This forces students who are uncomfortable with the Pledge of Allegiance’s religious implications to publicly isolate themselves from their peers, which could lead to being ostracized. Considering how much peer pressure affects a middle school student’s life, it is clear that Redwood’s routine is de facto mandatory. 
Some may argue that the phrase “under God” does not discriminate against atheists. It can even be interpreted as “under no God,” one such proponent claimed. In reality, Congress added the phrase during the Cold War to distinguish Americans from generally atheistic Soviets. In other words, the phrase “under God” is a clear statement that the “ideal” American is religious. 
Another possible counter-argument is that recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is mandated by the California education code. However, the exact wording of the code states that schools must conduct “appropriate patriotic exercises.” There is no specific mention of the Pledge of Allegiance, giving teachers the freedom to interpret the phrase “patriotic exercises” however they want. The Pledge of Allegiance is only one one of many patriotic activities; arguably, learning American History can also fulfill this requirement. 
Of course, all this fuss over the Pledge of Allegiance may seem quite silly to most Americans. In that case, if it is so trivial, then it doesn’t really matter if schools stop saying the Pledge of Allegiance or not. 
Either way, the Pledge doesn’t impact students deeply.  Schools might as well just cut it out of their daily routines.