14 July, 2006

Pledge (Not The Furniture Polish)

I grew up in Christian school. We said the pledge of allegiance to the American flag every morning before class, beginning with Kindergarten and carrying right on up to twelfth grade. I never really gave it much thought--it was just something you did.

I haven't actually said the pledge for years. Not (as you might think) out of truculence but out of a lack for pledge-saying opportunities. I have a great respect for the flag and the nation for which it stands. I have great respect for those who have died on behalf of the flag.

But I have two questions.

1. Why do only children say the pledge with any regularity? And does a five year old truly understand what their committing to? Do they have the power to make that commitment? It seems, forgive me, but a sort of nationalistic version of the Barney theme. Just another rote series of sing-song words that has no deeper significance.

2. Is it right to have children say the pledge in church? I've looked at VBS programs from several different publishers, and asked about VBS at several different churches. Mine is not the only one where the pledge is said. It seems odd to stand in a church and pledge your allegiance to something other than God.

Of course, I'm probably overthinking it.

But if I had my way, the pledge would only be said by people who are at least 13 years old and choose to say it on their own. Allegiance is an important concept, and I think the current use of the pledge as a nursery-school rhyme a la Mother Goose deprives it of any significance.

18 Comments:

At 9:14 AM, July 14, 2006, Blogger dolphin said...

But if I had my way, the pledge would only be said by people who are at least 13 years old and choose to say it on their own.

Saying the pledge at the beginning of every (public) school day seems harmless enough unless you consider that in all reality it si the government extracting a loyalty oath from it's youngest citizens. Whe you look at it that way it starts to sound a little scary.

 
At 9:15 AM, July 14, 2006, Blogger Malia said...

I remember being so proud when Sweetpea came home from preschool, 3-years-old, reciting the Pledge. A year or so later it really hit me what the words of the pledge are really saying. I posted about this here. Personally, I would be very uncomfortable with the Pledge being recited in a church, even during VBS for the sole(soul) reason that our true allegience should be with God. However I doubt I would make a scene over it.

And yes, it does seem weird to have such young children reciting such a serious oath. They don't understand what they are saying, it's almost as if we are brainwashing them! Maybe the school systems fear that if they wait until the kids can understand what they are saying, so one would do it!

 
At 10:01 AM, July 14, 2006, Blogger R. David Boyer, II said...

Do you know the pledge? The Pledge is to "One Nation under God." Clearly, the pledge to the a nation and not a nation above God or instead of God. The pledge to the American Flag belongs and should be said in Churches and schools.

I may be a dumb Hoosier, but I understand the need and importance to say the pledge.

Kat--when you were 4 and 5 you knew enough to read Mark Twain books. You knew what you were saying. Further, I knew children that did not say the pledge, it is part of developing a World View.

 
At 10:10 AM, July 14, 2006, Blogger SistaSmiff said...

I thought til I was no telling how old that it said "One nation..in the visible."

Even though I didn't know what each individual word meant, I knew it was about loyalty to country and there is nothing wrong with teaching that to young children.

 
At 10:26 AM, July 14, 2006, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

I refuse to say the pledge out of pure truculence.

Kat, your points are well taken. Meaningless loyalty oaths for children are a good method of indoctrination, but hardly intstills true patriotism and understanding of what our country stands for. As far as I can tell, it only provides a Pavlovian response whenever it, or flag burning are brought up in public discourse.

 
At 11:56 AM, July 14, 2006, Blogger Kathy T. said...

As an Air Force brat, I was and am patriotic through and through. Not only did we recite the pledge at the start of our school day, but we also sang "My Country Tis of Thee." After my Dad retired and we entered civilian life, it was so hard for me to not leap to my feet before a movie started for the national anthem! I really miss that.

 
At 2:28 PM, July 14, 2006, Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

They're not saying it in schools much anymore, either, because of the whole God thing, I think. I'm not even sure my stepdaughters know all the words to it anymore.

 
At 2:45 PM, July 14, 2006, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

I used to say "One Nation, Underdog" pretty much my entire school career. I don't think I realized it was "Under God" until this whole, "Under God" debate happened. Yep, I'm dumb.

 
At 3:14 PM, July 14, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I have no problem with the pledge.

I like the pledge.

RDBii; You may recall that my parents actually bought me a little book when I was four and taught me the pledge word for word as well as explaining to me what it meant. I had those kind (the good kind) of parents. They also knew they had a four-year-old who could understand it.

Trust me when I say that not every four year old gets the same exposure I did. (Witness all these folks who thought it was "underdog" and "invisible.")

It's not the pledge I have a problem with in and of itself.

It's the rote recitation of something that many kids are not aware of.

 
At 9:34 AM, July 15, 2006, Blogger newscoma said...

As an adult, I don't get an opportunity to say the pledge, but when I was a kid, I loved the resonance of it. The way the words sounded coming out of my mouth and how I felt stronger just saying them.
I also thought it was invisible when I was a youngun, Sista.
But it was the tradition and the process of being part of something bigger that I liked when reciting with others.
Now I just hear it in Rotary Club meetings.

 
At 10:28 AM, July 15, 2006, Blogger Rachel said...

This is an interesting post, Kat. We said the pledge every day in elementary school, complete with classroom flag. In middle school, there were no flags, and we all stared at the intercom from which the pledge leader's voice was emanating. I don't think it was ever explained why this was a necessary classroom activity for children. If they just wanted us to memorize the thing, it could have been an assignment - we did have to memorize and recite the Preamble to the Constitution in 5th grade, and I still remember it. It definitely seems a little creepy to elicit pledges from children who don't really understand the purpose or think of it as any more than a morning routine.

 
At 11:22 AM, July 15, 2006, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

What's the average age of your average Rotarian, 'Coma?

 
At 11:42 AM, July 15, 2006, Blogger newscoma said...

I would lean toward 72, but in all honesty they are about 55.
I go about once a year to cover the Titans Caravan or extremely large vegetables, which is one of my paper's specialties, as Rex L. can tell you.

 
At 12:36 PM, July 15, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

These "extremely large vegetables" you're covering--are they some of the older, fatter Rotarians?

 
At 8:38 PM, July 15, 2006, Blogger newscoma said...

Well, at the sake of trying to be diplomatic, umm... there tends to be a huge similarity, but I'll be nice.

 
At 11:17 AM, July 16, 2006, Blogger friedApplePie said...

I recited the pledge every morning in chapel (Episcopal school) right after "Our Father." I had no idea what I was saying in either of them. I probably could have understood it, but it never occured to me to really wonder; they were just meaningless syllables. I was not an intellectually curious kid, I guess. Some time in the third grade we had a town meeting after chapel, and the principal and Mother Dickson told us that we would not say the pledge in chapel anymore, nor would we carry the American flag while we processed in. They explained some conflict of interest which I didn't understand until years later. We could all tell it was a really big deal, but my classmates and I didn't really get it.

 
At 1:12 PM, July 16, 2006, Anonymous Sis said...

I am proud to teach the pledge AND its meaning to my kindergarteners. I make sure they understand it. They do not have to say it, but most do anyway. I believe that it is important to teach patriotism and loyalty to young children. In this day and age, my classroom might be the only place they ever hear it!

 
At 12:04 AM, July 17, 2006, Blogger jewels v said...

The schools that I work in do not say the pledge any longer. The God thing gets in the way. I think that something is missing with that. I believe we have to have something in our head before we can think it through. Not to get all psychology major on this, but that is the first step to accepting some truth. No, a five year old certainly does not know what they are saying. But the ability for metacognition (thinking about out thinking) doesn't come until late adolescence, if then. Perhaps 5 is too young, but here our public schools have gone to the opposite extreme and removed it. How can they think about the pledge and commit to the pledge, when they don't know the pledge.

 

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