Autopsy of the Pledge of Allegiance

Questions to Consider about the Pledge

<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Chicago+School+Children+Salute+Flag">Chicago School Children Salute Flag</a>

Chicago schoolchildren saluting flag, circa 1917/18

The Pledge of Allegiance raises numerous questions about loyalty, unity, and the public role of religion (particularly the separation of church and state) in American civic life. 

Loyalty: What does it mean to pledge allegiance - to make a ritualistic speech act -- directed at a flag, specifically? Only one other country, the Republic of the Phillipines, has a pledge to the flag, and this was based on the United States custom. 

How does the Pledge of Allegiance, as a ritualistic speech act, inspire loyalty or put it in question? 

Unity: Looking beyond the Youth's Companion's original idea of teaching patriotism to young Americans, the act of saying the pledge reminds Americans of the nation's aspiration to stand together as one, despite our many differences.

Do the divisions over the pledge - whether and where it can be said, for example - negate its usefulness as a unifying force? 

Religion: In 1956, the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance, continuing an ongoing conversation about the relationship of religion to the state.

Does the inclusion of "under God" violate the separation of church and state? 

How does the practice of saying the pledge in (presumably non-sectarian/non-religious) public schools compare to rulings against prayer in public schools? 

Other Questions to Consider regarding the Pledge: 

  • What does freedom mean you? Why do people often define it differently? Why does the definition change from person to person or country to country?
  • Can the Pledge of Allegiance be changed to fit American culture as it changes? Should it?
  • Would you recite the Pledge now if you were told to?
  • What would you pledge to?
  • Write down your own version of the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • Is there a better way to teach patriotism at schools?
  • Should we teach patriotism at schools, or is this best learned through other avenues?