Featured article: “We know commitment. Its author, perhaps not.” by Sam Roberts
More than a century after an upstate New York Baptist minister took credit for writing the Pledge of Allegiance, new evidence suggests the possibility of a very different story – that a 13-year-old schoolboy from Kansas could have been the author.
In this lesson, you’ll learn about the history of the Pledge of Allegiance, and then consider whether students should be required to recite it at school.
The Pledge of Allegiance now reads as follows:
I swear allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic it represents, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Have you taken the oath of allegiance yet? And if so, have you memorized it? What do you think is the purpose of reciting the covenant?
Do you think it’s important for all Americans – especially school children – to know it and recite it regularly? Why or why not?
Writing and Discussion Questions
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. How has the authorship of the Pledge of Allegiance been questioned this year? What evidence seems to contradict the accepted story of the origins of the oath?
2. According to Baptist pastor Francis Bellamy, why did he write the promise in 1892? According to Frank E. Bellamy, why did he write the pledge when he was 13 years old in 1890?
3. Would knowing definitively who wrote the pledge make a difference in what you think about it? Is the story important?
4. How has the wording of the pledge – and the way it is recited – changed since it was first drafted? Why was it changed?
5. What is your reaction to this article? Do you think the discovery will change the way the story of the promise is written and remembered?
Almost all states require public school students to regularly recite the pledge, although the Supreme Court has ruled that students must be allowed to opt out.
What do you think: Should students in the United States recite the Pledge of Allegiance every school day? Why or why not? Do you think learning and reciting commitment instils patriotism in young people? Does it promote loyalty to the nation, as well as a commitment to the core values of freedom and justice for all? Or are daily recitations just meaningless routines? Or, worse, does requiring students to recite the pledge violate individual liberty?
These questions are not only academic. In Texas, Mari Oliver claimed that in 2017, when she was a senior in high school, she was harassed for refusing to recite the pledge. In response, she filed a lawsuit against four teachers, a school administrator and her school district, and last week her attorneys announced a settlement under which she will receive $90,000, paid for by the Texas Association of School Boards. .
The article “Texas Student Who Protested Pledge of Allegiance Gets $90,000 in Settlement” explains why Mrs. Oliver refused to recite the pledge:
Ms Oliver objected to the pledge because she did not believe the United States guarantees “freedom and justice for all”, especially for people of color, the statement said. She also disagreed with the words “under God”. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that students had a First Amendment right not to salute the flag or pledge allegiance.
Read the entire article, then discuss (or respond in writing) your reaction. Why do you feel this way? Has this made you rethink your answer to the question above about whether students should be required to recite the promise?
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