School is usually something that is on the top of American’s minds during this time of year. College kids are heading back to campus, teachers are putting together curriculums, and kids across the country are mourning the end of the summer. We’re all used to these annual traditions. This year however, due to the covid-19 pandemic, far more attention is being paid to schooling than normal. Due to differing beliefs in a wide variety of states across America, debates centered around school have been extremely prevalent in our society. Some people are in favor of sending kids back to school and attempting to make the environment as safe as possible for them, while others feel that virtual learning is still the proper way to go at this time. Here’s the thing though, I have zero interest in writing about that. That debate has become equally as unfun as all covid debates have nearly six months into quarantine, so I’m not going to be spending any more time focusing on it in this blog. Instead, I’m going to explore a question that continuosally boggles my mind every time back-to-school season rolls around. And that question is.. what the fuck is going on with The Pledge of Allegiance?
In my personal opinion, school children reciting The Pledge of Allegiance everyday is one of the strangest traditions that America—a country sometimes known for its affinity for overzealous patriotic traditions—still has. It is fairly insane to me that we ask children, from the ages of like 7 to 18, to stand up every single day in school and pledge their loyalty to the United States. If it doesn’t sound insane to you at all, let me run you through a quick hypothetical. Imagine if I told you that North Korea makes all of the school children in their country stand up from their desks everyday, put their hands over their hearts, and—in unison—vow their allegiance to North Korea and its flag. There is not even a single doubt in my mind that you would think that was one of the most insane things you’ve ever heard. But for some reason, here in America, we’re just like “yeah, fuck it. That’s how we do things.”
I want to make one thing clear. I’m not saying the Pledge—and the school-time tradition that comes along with it—is an inherently negative or bad thing, I’m just saying it’s bizarre. One of the most bizarre aspects of it is that, for the most part, The Pledge of Allegiance simply does not exist outside of public school classrooms. Unlike the National Anthem, we NEVER hear the Pledge out in the wild. For 12 years, we make kids take a break from learning about fractions every day to declaim it, but once you graduate high school, it just ceases to exist. Much like trigonometry, 4 oz. paper milk cartons, and handjobs—the Pledge disappears from your life once you become an adult.
Another bizarre—yet truly American—aspect of the Pledge is the fact, while it was originally written in 1892 and amended in 1923, two words were added in 1954 to create the version we continue to say today. And yes, those two words were “under God.” I absolutely love that. Perhaps the only thing more American than making children stop learning to pledge allegiance to their country, is doing so while also ignoring any ideas regarding the separation of church and state that are allegedly supposed to exist in the US. What a country.
Honestly, making school children recite The Pledge of Allegiance is one of many traditions that exists in our society that we accept as normal because we are familiar with them, but if we were to really zoom out and examine them—we’d start to have some questions. Like I said, I’m not sure that it is necessarily a huge problem, but I just don’t understand why we feel the need to make nine-year-olds pledge their undying loyalty to their country on a daily basis. That just feels a little strange to me. Who knows though, maybe when we send kids back to school during a pandemic this year, we’ll allow them to skip the creepy commitment-based oath they have to proclaim everyday.